Bats provide benefits to humans that include controlling agricultural pest populations, pollinating plants and distributing seeds. Bats help control mosquito populations, consuming up to 600 in an hour. Occasionally, bats might find their way into your home or nest on your property. Handling of bat species is governed under state law in Virginia, which you should familiarize yourself with if you have a bat problem on your property.
Bats of Virginia
Of the 15 species of bat in Virginia, three are classified as endangered or threatened under state and federal law: gray, Indiana, and Virginia big-eared. An additional species, southeastern big-eared, is protected under state law. Other bat species native to Virginia include big brown, little brown, northern long-eared, eastern red and silver-haired. Uncommon species found in Virginia include the eastern small-footed and the southeastern.
For species that are not protected or endangered, it is permissible under state law to kill bats who are a nuisance to a homeowner. However, what qualifies as a nuisance is defined by state law as those "found committing or about to commit depredation upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, wildlife, livestock or other property or when concentrated in numbers and manners as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance." The presence of bats alone does not constitute a nuisance. Poisoning of any animal on residential property aside from mice and rates is generally against the law. It is illegal to capture bats and release them somewhere other than your property.
Before attempting to remove bats from your home or property, be absolutely certain you are not dealing with threatened or endangered species. Harming or possessing an endangered or threatened specimen can result in stiff penalties. Felony violations of the federal Endangered Species Act involving an endangered species carry up to a year in prison and a fine of $50,000; those involving a threatened species carry up to six months imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. Violations of the Endangered Species Act are also punishable under Virginia state law and are classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Contact a game official if you believe you are dealing with an endangered bat species in your home.
One species of bat in particular has the honor of being named the official State Bat of Virginia. The Virginia big-eared bat ( Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus ) was awarded the title in 2005. The species is on the endangered list. The bill was proposed by Virginia Delegate Jackie Stump and signed into law by Governor Mark Warner. Virginia is only one of three states to have designated a state bat. The Virginia big-eared bat resides in the caves of western Virginia.
- Biological Diversity: Economic Value of Bats
- Virginia DCR: Karst Program
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Bats
- Endangered Species Handbook: Legislation
- Animal Legal & Historical Center: Virginia
- NetState: Virginia State Bat
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Virginia Big Eared Bat
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Currently living in Austin, Texas, Alexander Harris is a business journalist covering the self storage industry for SpareFoot.com and SelfStorage.com. Harris previously wrote daily news for RichmondBizSense.com, a business journal in his hometown of Richmond, Va. His work has appeared in various other publications including "Philadelphia Citypaper," Stateline.org, "RVA Magazine" and the "Virginian-Pilot." Harris holds a mass communications degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.