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Terror on the wing

August 25, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

A friend of mine recently had a trio of unsettling misadventures with flying creatures which made her hairs stand on end and caused her to lose some precious sleep.

It began with the bat.

After a long day at work, she had just retired to the sanctity of her boudoir with a good book, when she heard a scratching sort of commotion coming from the other side of the room.

Several times, she admonished the cat for making such a racket while she was trying to relax.

Finally, in exasperation, she sat up to see what was causing the disturbance, and immediately experienced a sinking feeling when she realized that the cat was not moving at all, but was staring intently in the direction of the laundry basket she had recently brought up from the basement.

Then, before she could say Jack Robinson, a dark form swooped from the basket and winged it straight for her face.

She had just enough time to pull the blankets up over her head before the creature zoomed past.

For several minutes, she lay under the covers paralyzed by terror, not knowing what to do.

It should be noted that my friend does not care for bats.

Eventually, she composed herself enough to holler for her teenage daughter who was downstairs.

The daughter, while not exactly a fan of bats, is at least not terrified of them.

The daughter came to the rescue and a search ensued, but the flying demon was not found.

After a great deal of consternation, my friend realized that she needed to get some sleep.

She decided she could do this only if she left the television on, because The Golden Girls would help her to relax, and if her daughter slept in her bed to protect her if the bat should return.

The rest of the night passed relatively uneventfully, with the exception that every time the daughter so much as moved her toe, my friend jumped about six feet in the direction of the ceiling.

In the morning, after another search (conducted mainly by the daughter) they left the house. My friend planned to drop her daughter off at a friend’s house on her way to work.

It was about this time that the second incident took place.

They were driving peacefully along when a rooster pheasant, disturbed by their passing, flew straight at the passenger side window, barely clearing the vehicle.

This caused the daughter, in her turn, to leap ceilingward, no small task when one is hindered by a seat belt.

My friend arrived at work unscathed and spent the rest of the day hearing all sorts of helpful (and mostly redundant) advice concerning what a person can do about bats.

She tired of this advice long before her shift was over.

After work, she was driving home and thinking about what to do about the bat, since her daughter wouldn’t be there to protect her.

That was when the third incident occurred.

She was cruising along Highway 212 when she noticed some odd creatures on the side of the road ahead.

As she drew nearer, she realized it was a family of turkeys, with the old man in the lead, followed by several poults, and Ma Turkey bringing up the rear.

Instead of being frightened by the car, they boldly marched in column formation straight across the road.

My friend swerved to miss the birds, and things almost worked out for the best.

Unfortunately, at the last minute, Pa Turkey got spooked and tried to fly to safety. He nearly made it.

His luck ran out about the time he reached the center of her windshield, which he struck with considerable force, shattering the windshield and what was left of my friend’s frazzled nerves.

Despite being a maze of spiderweb cracks, the windshield remained intact, and she was able to make it home.

She enlisted the help of a friend and the friend’s husband to join the bat patrol. The creature was eventually discovered lurking among the curtains in the living room. He was removed from the premises and released on his own recognizance.

Among these tormentors, the turkey had caused the most damage, but, owing to the fact that turkeys and pheasants generally confine their activities to the wide open spaces, my friend was (and is) most concerned about the bat and his relatives.

When she bought the house, it was with the understanding that it was vacant, and she does not take kindly to the idea of winged squatters trying to share her space.

She knows that bats are beneficial to humans and generally harmless, but this does not stop her from panicking when she sees one.

She understands that, contrary to myth, bats will not fly into one’s hair and make one crazy, and she is perfectly willing to leave them alone, as long as they leave her alone (and she would prefer if they did so).

In Minnesota, about 40 percent of the confrontations between bats and humans take place in August.

The DNR offers several helpful suggestions concerning how to escort an unwanted bat from one’s home.

Unfortunately, telling someone who is terrified of bats that she should not only remain calm, but stay in the room with the bat to keep track of its whereabouts, may not be all that practical.

All of the seven species of bats in the state are fairly small, but all bats have the potential to carry rabies. One Minnesota man died last year, and another in 2000 after tangling with rabid bats.

For this reason, even those who are not afraid of bats should wear heavy leather gloves if they have to handle one. Health professionals advise that anyone who thinks they may have been bitten or scratched by a bat should seek medical attention.

My friend ought be safe, though. Like any other sensible person, if she has her way, she won’t come within a mile of bat under any circumstances, and she definitely won’t be picking one up.

A bit of healthy terror can be good for the old self preservation.