Students reflect on bat encounters

by Saba Nejad | 1/22/18 2:00am

Members of the Dartmouth community received an unusual message in their emails, on Jan. 11. The message, sent as part of the VOX Daily news digest from visiting Fulbright scholar Ilona Kotlewska Was, informed them that the recent spell of cold weather had awakened several bats on campus and advised them to take the bats to a nearby wildlife shelter. Later that day, a follow-up message from director of residential operations Catherine Henault warned students against trying to catch a bat themselves, instead telling them to contact Safety and Security.

While students and staff alike may have been confused and intrigued by the messages, they also raised a larger question: How frequently do Dartmouth residents deal with bats?

Interim director of Safety and Security Keysi Montás said that Safety and Security receives an average of four to eight calls about bats every winter term, though they also receive calls regarding deer, dogs, moose, owls and squirrels.

Calls come from both residential and academic buildings, according to Montás.

After capturing a bat, Montás said Safety and Security releases it outdoors, where it is possible for the bat to freeze if temperatures are low.

Earlier this month Wyatt Genasci Smith ’19 found and caught a bat in the hallway of his dorm in the Sustainable Living Center.

His first encounter with a bat occurred two years ago and resulted having to receive in four weeks worth of rabies shots, which “sucked,” he said.

However, this year he was prepared and said he put on gloves, got a pillowcase and caught the bat. Later that day though, with the encouragement of his housemates and against his preference to keep the animal, he released the bat outdoors.

However, not all bats receive such hospitality.

Garrison Roe ’18 said during the winter of 2016, Luke Dawson ’16 hit and killed a bat with a pillow after failing to usher it outside all of the building’s open windows.

“Eventually the bat panicked and started flying around the living room really quickly,” Roe said.

The bat was disposed in a dumpster, which Roe described as “sad and gruesome.”

Melissa Biggs ’18, a member of Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority, said her first encounter with bats occurred last spring.

Biggs said there were also multiple bats in EKT’s house in the summer — one even flew into the living room while several sorority members were watching TV.

A second encounter with a bat that spring happened as she was leaving her room to go to class one morning, she said, adding that she immediately called Safety and Security.

Over the past summer, EKT also found three bats in the basement — two parents and a baby.

“There were so many in our house this summer, I’m surprised nobody got infected,” Biggs said.

Karina Martinez ’19, another member of EKT, said her first interaction with a bat dates back to this past summer when she was attending a social event with Gamma Delta Chi fraternity.

Martinez said that the bat flew into the basement of EKT and was hit by someone standing next to her, at which point the dead animal fell on her head.

She added that the experience was “traumatizing but very funny.”

Some incidents run the risk of causing greater consequences. The Center for Disease Control specifies that if a bat is found in a room with sleeping occupants, they should be treated for rabies.

During his sophomore summer, Michael Lenke ’15 found a bat in his room in Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity that had come in through the attic, according to his father Roger Lenke.

Although Michael Lenke’s roommate never sought medical attention, after his son left campus, Roger Lenke said he insisted that Michael get rabies shots.

Montás emphasized that bats may carry diseases and students should seek medical attention after even a scratch.

Kotlewska Was declined to comment and Henault did not respond for comment.

Zachary Benjamin contributed reporting.