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Valerie Olander / The Detroit News

Animal control officers say the loss of farm habitat has the nocturnal creatures seeking shelter in attics.

Residents across Metro Detroit are going batty, especially in Livingston County.

The county Health Department is warning residents to be on the lookout for the nocturnal creatures after a larger than normal number of reports of bats slipping into area homes and scaring homeowners.

The advisory is meant to protect people and pets from possible rabies.

Hot days and cool evenings, along with urban sprawl, has made bats more active, says Rob Mies, director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, which is associated with the Bat Zone at Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills.

He said the big brown bat, a species familiar to southeastern Michigan, usually lives in dead or dying trees and in barns during the summer months.

"Since dead trees are being cut down and farms are being turned into strip malls and more homes, bats are having a hard time finding a place to live. Unfortunately, that's in our attics and under the shingles of our roofs," Mies said.

In past years, a bat even slipped into the home of Livingston County's Animal Control director, Ann Burns.

"I think the city (of Howell) is the bat capital of Livingston County, with all the old houses. The bats get in through the crevices and, well, they can really freak you out. This little 5-inch bat ruled my life," Burns said.

Midsummer typically brings the unwanted houseguests with nocturnal bad manners back to Michigan from the south, according to Livingston Medical Director Donald Lawrenchuk.

Although bats are by far the top animal at risk for contracting rabies, Lawrenchuk said only about 1 percent of all bats in the state carry it.

In 2005, 41 cases of rabies were reported in Michigan; 28 were attributed to bats. Four of those cases were reported in Livingston, two in Oakland County and one in Wayne, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

No cases of rabies have been attributed to bats this year, Lawrenchuk said.

Despite the big brown bats' frightful name and eerie disposition, the bat weighs in at a mere 20 grams -- about the same as four nickels -- and has a wingspan of 12-14 inches.

The only thing "big" about the bat is its appetite, dining on 2,000 to 5,000 insects per evening, Mies said.

"They're tiny little animal, like a mouse. They're not trying to terrorize us," he said.

"If the bat is just flying around the house and no one has come in contact with it, let it fly out instead trying to capture it."

The article appeared in the Detroit News on August 1, 2007.

Critter Catchers is the exclusive bat removal partner for the Organization for Bat Conservation, who interviewed for this story.

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