A bad infestation forces the family to flee their home in Savannah, Georgia
At first Monica and Isaiah Grant thought the little black bat flying into their rented house in Savannah, Georgia was just a coincidence.
After all, bats have become common in the Georgia port town, where the family moved last year after living in Chicago. But that didn’t make it any less terrifying when on January 18 the small, dark creature came flying into the couple’s bedroom long after its loud squeaking, scratching and rustling had roused them from its winter slumber.
The rattling also bothered their 4-month-old baby, as Isaiah and Monica grabbed a tennis racket and a box to take the racket out of the house. Problem solved – or so the couple thought.
“We say Savannah has a lot of bats, so it’s OK,” Monica recalled in an interview with Savannah Now, a USA TODAY publication.
But the bat was not alone. The nocturnal animal was just the first sign of a growing bat infestation that the Grants soon discovered lurking in their home, eventually displacing them.
More bat encounters require rabies treatment
Within a few days, there were several more bat encounters, one even startling a guest who ran out of the bathroom screaming. Infestation appears to be increasing as temperatures drop and animals seek shelter.
The bats clung in groups along the room’s perforated partition and were attracted to the warm humidity of the bathroom. In a video clip that received thousands of views on YouTube, the Grant family shared footage taken throughout the house showing bats flying into the living room and stairwell, and hiding inside heating vents in the ceiling.
On the advice of a public health official, Isaiah, Monica, and their two children, River, 2, and Clara, 4 months, began preventive treatment for rabies. Grants also said the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services deemed the home “poses an imminent risk to public health.”
Throughout the entire ordeal, the family had to deal with approximately 80 bats inside their home, according to local outlet WSAV.
Bats must be humanely removed, and rabies shots are recommended
It’s not unusual for bats to find their way into homes on savannas, especially when temperatures drop into the 20s, as they did in mid-January, said Trina Morris, program manager with the Wildlife Conservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The Grants’ home happened to be a tempting refuge for small Brazilian free-tailed bats
“We’ve had several situations where we’ve had unusual wildlife events because of that cold snap,” Morris told Savannah Now. “That’s just the way it is. Everything is trying to survive.”
Morris said Georgia is home to 16 native bat species, all of which are protected from intentional harm.
Bats are just one of many animals capable of spreading rabies to those who are bitten or scratched. Rabies, which affects the central nervous system, can be fatal if left untreated, but is easily preventable with vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only one to three cases of rabies are reported annually in the United States, but worldwide, the disease is thought to cause about 59,000 deaths annually, according to the National Park Service.
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The Grant family flees to the hotel nearly a week later
Grants reported the widespread problem the following Monday, January 22, to Property Management Co. LLC, but was not satisfied with what it considered a slow and hesitant response.
One night, after nearly a week of living with the injury, Monica and Isaiah were relaxing downstairs when they heard a noise in the kitchen and looked up to see little arms reaching through the air vent.
That’s when Monica said she had enough.
“We decided we couldn’t be here because there were too many,” she said.
That night, January 24, the couple immediately woke their children and left the house — which still bore the remnants of the Christmas holiday season, including a tree, wreath and string lights — heading to the relative safety of a hotel.
The next day, a local pest control company came to inspect the property and were shocked by what they saw: According to Monica, the technician claimed that in 43 years, the company had never seen so many bats in a living space.
“It’s like they’re in the hall, not in the attic. They’re in your bedrooms, they’re in your kitchen. I mean, they’re in the bathroom… they were everywhere,” Monica said.
It took some prodding, but finally Isaiah said that by January 26, he was able to convince the property management company to take more concrete action more than a week after seeing the first bat.
“That was the first time we received any contact from them,” he said.
The pest control company came out again and hung glue traps in the attic and sealed off the areas where the bats had entered so no more new bats could fly out. Naturally, this also meant that the bats wouldn’t be able to leave either.
Kathleen Barela, owner of the property management company, told WSAV-TV that the bats were removed last week, and the house will be sanitized soon, the station reported Monday.
“They left code compliance in violation because of the pressure they were getting from tenants,” Barela told the station. “But all it takes is to remove the bats from the property and they are very aware of the fact that we are working to get that done.”
Start GoFundMe grants to help with expenses
Even if the bats are removed, Grant said they have no intention of returning home.
Angry and not knowing where to turn, the Grants started a GoFundMe campaign on January 29 to raise money to help with increasing medical bills and living expenses.
The family said the expensive rabies treatments required an emergency room visit every time they got one of a series of eight shots. The grants hope to raise $10,000, enough to cover an estimated $6,000 in medical bills and $4,000 or more for relocation.
The GoFundMe had raised $11.72 before Isaiah disabled it.
In an update on Friday, the family said they were “overwhelmed with support from our family, friends, community and even strangers. When we started the GoFundMe, we had very few answers about where to go, how to solve this, and how we would ever recover.”
The family said in a GoFundMe update that they have been able to stay with a neighbor but have plans to temporarily move into a fully furnished townhouse thanks to the generosity of an unnamed person.
They have also hired an attorney to negotiate with the management company while they search for a permanent home elsewhere.