Iowa City facing influx of bats, worrying residents

The Iowa City Police Department is receiving more reports of bats entering homes potentially due to migration patterns.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

From apartment buildings to sorority houses, reports of bats entering homes are increasing in Iowa City.

For Ahava Atar, a University of Iowa second-year student, her roommate had a bat recently enter her room in the middle of the night.

“There was a bat flying around her room, and we had no idea what to do,” Atar said.

Atar said she called the building’s security department to help with the problem. Her building has a “bat line” to call with bat-related problems, which is only available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Security was not sure what they could do to help with the situation, Atar said. When Atar and her roommate returned to her room, the bat had disappeared into a wall vent.

Atar and her roommate decided to call the Iowa City Police Department, but after 40 minutes, chose to handle the problem themselves.

“We actually took our tongs from our kitchen and we kind of nudged it over and then eventually it came out. It was screeching. We put it in a tub,” Atar said.

One of Atar’s neighbors helped her and her roommate release the bat in the courtyard of her apartment. She said it was lucky that no one got hurt.

Atar added that she did not think of bats as a Midwest regional problem but her friends also have bat problems in their apartments.

“The police said that they had multiple calls from our location in the past week,” said Atar.

The reason for the current influx of bats in Iowa City might be caused by migration patterns.

Chris Whitmore, Iowa City animal services coordinator, said some years are worse than others regarding bat migration but that recent trends are nothing out of the ordinary.

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The migration of these bats can lead to euthanizations Whitmore said there’s been 11 bat euthanizations.

Stephanie Shepherd, staff member of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity Program, mentioned larger groups of bats migrating in the summer and big congregations of bats in October.

“They breed right before they go into hibernation for the winter,” Shepherd said. “This time of year specifically, it could be the young bats now.”

For those who bats are a problem, now is a perfect time to bat proof your house yourself or to call a professional, said Shepherd.

Shepherd said to open any outside windows if there’s a bat flying around a room. This is a way a person can avoid contact with the bat and let them leave on their own.

If physical contact is necessary, heavy gloves with padding should be worn. The bat should also be handled for as little time as possible, she said.

Overall, the influx of bats is still unusual for Iowa City at this time of year, Shepherd said.

“I’m not sure what’s going on or why even we have more bats now than we would have this summer or late winter,” she said.

According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, people should seek medical attention if bitten or scratched by wildlife and make sure to wash hands with soap.

“Other contact by itself, such as petting a rabid animal and contact with blood, urine, or feces of a rabid animal, does not constitute an exposure and is not an indication for postexposure vaccination,” the CDC states.

Non-bite exposures rarely cause rabies, the website states.

For Natalie Davis, UI fourth-year student, bats keep coming back to her apartment and pose a potential danger to residents’ health.

“We’ve seen them multiple times and our landlord seems to be to do nothing about it besides capturing one once it’s already causing damage,” Davis said. “I have gone to Mercy to get about 11 rabies shots.”

Davis said the bat situation has gotten worse lately. A co-worker of hers has had bat poop on her pillows at home.

“Why am I paying so much in rent to live with a bunch of bats?” Davis said. “The bats are going to have to pay rent.”