I occasionally receive calls from people looking for ways to handle bats. They often tell me that they “know” that bats are protected and cannot be handled. So, they are looking for ways to evict the bats from their homes while following the law. I asked one caller where he heard this and he said the “internet.” It’s incredible that such bad information exists in cyberspace so I thought I would provide a brief summary of bats and the law to help clarify things for wildlife control operators (WCOs), pest control operators (PCOs) and the general public.
The first fact about wildlife law is that the vast majority of wildlife law is governed at the state rather than federal level. Federal law on wildlife is, for the most part, restricted to threatened and endangered species (T & E), migratory birds https://www.fws.gov/birds/policies-and-regulations/laws-legislations/migratory-bird-treaty-act.php , and ocean mammals https://www.fws.gov/international/laws-treaties-agreements/us-conservation-laws/. Presently, 12 bats https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/pub/SpeciesReport.do?groups=A&listingType=L&mapstatus=1 are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The majority, if not all of these bats, are not typically found in structures. But if they are, contact USFWS immediately.
Since states have the primary role in governing the handling of wildlife, it should come as little surprise that state wildlife agencies (typically named Fish and Wildlife, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Game Commission, etc.) must establish regulations covering bats and other wildlife.
States classify wildlife into two major categories, Game Animals and Non-game Animals. Game animals is a legal classification for those species that are hunted, fished, and trapped. Sub-categories of game animals include big game (deer, elk, etc.), small game (rabbits, tree squirrels, etc.), furbearers (mink, muskrat, etc.). Most people learn about state wildlife agencies as the place where hunting, fishing and trapping licenses are obtained. Licenses are granted for the taking (i.e. capture and killing) of game animals.
The other major classification is non-game animals. These are animals that are not hunted such as voles, chipmunks, garter snakes, and a host of other animals. Now what is confusing for people is that non-game animals may be protected or unprotected. For example, in Montana, prairie dogs are a non-game animal, but they are not protected. Landowners can shoot them at will. Woodpeckers, being a migratory bird, are non-game but they are protected. You cannot harm them without a federal and in some cases a state permit.
How are bats classified? Bats are non-game animals. But depending on your state, bats may be protected or unprotected. Since the occurrence of white-nose syndrome (https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/), an increasing number of states mandate that any type of structural exclusion of bat (the process of getting bats out of your house) must be performed outside of the “blackout dates.” Blackout dates are typically between May and August. States prohibit the exclusion of bats during this period to prevent the possibility of killing juvenile bats during the exclusion process. Owners may evict bats from their buildings but only outside the blackout period. Likewise, these states may prohibit the arbitrary killing of bats. Other states, however, do not protect bats. While these states would like you to use proper exclusion practices that evict but don’t kill bats, they can’t force you because the regulations do not require it. For the record, I recommend following NWCOA’s Bat Standards (http://nwcoa.com of which I am instructor).
To learn where your state stands on bat control, contact the non-game biologist and ask what the regulations in your state demand. Individuals wanting to know what the regulations are must contact representatives of that agency, typically a non-game biologist or game warden, for that information. A list of state wildlife agency websites can be found here https://www.fws.gov/offices/statelinks.html.Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACE, is the owner of Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. He helps people restore their balance with nature through publishing, training, consulting, and the internet. He has published numerous articles in trade and academic publications along with several books (http://kingsdivinity.academia.edu/StephenMVantassel). He is a sought after speaker and trainer. Copyright All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.