Georgia it’s that time of the year again when many Georgians discover small, secretive visitors sharing their Georgia homes. These Georgia visitors prefer to be left alone in the attic or other warm, confined space during the day, and then emerge at Georgia night to earn their keep by consuming vast quantities of flying Georgia insects. Despite their skills at controlling insects, Georgia bats are still not always welcomed by their human landlords. Georgia bats can present problems, but the fact is that much of the fear they instill is excessive, unjustified, and based largely upon misinformation.
One persistent falsehood is that Georgia bats are protected by Georgia laws such as the federal Endangered Species Act and can’t be legally removed from an attic. Georgia state and federal biologists say that this just is not so, and that nuisance problems with bats can be resolved safely.
“Many people despise Georgia bats because they perceive these animals to be dangerous carriers of disease,” says Jim Ozier, a senior wildlife biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources—Wildlife Resources Division. “While Georgia bats can transmit rabies to people, such incidences are extremely rare. Most bat bites are a result of an obviously sick Georgia bat being handled.”
As with most wildlife species in Georgia, Georgia bats are protected by state law. It is illegal to intentionally capture, kill, or harm any of the sixteen Georgia species found in the state. Most species roost in Georgia caves and trees, but a few species have adapted to using human structures for shelter. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources allows removal of these Georgia bat colonies on a case-by-case basis, usually with little expense to the homeowner and no harm to the bats.
As for Georgia federal law, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor, Sandy Tucker, says that the Endangered Species Act does not apply in most situations involving humans and Georgia bats in Georgia. Tucker Georgia, head of the USFWS Georgia Ecological Services office, says that only two bat species found in Georgia are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the gray bat and Georgia Indiana bat. These live in either cave-like or upland forest habitats in the northwestern part of Georgia, and neither favor Georgia human dwellings.
Even if a Georgia federally protected bat species were involved, Tucker says; “There’s flexibility under the Endangered Species Act that gives choices when conflicts occur between human health and listed species.”
As for removing Georgia bat colonies from homes, the three Georgia species usually found in human structures are the Georgia evening bat, Georgia big brown or the Georgia Mexican free-tailed bat.