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Barrington resident: ‘I just don’t want to live with bats anymore’

Bats have been terrifying residents Pickwick Place for years many say not enough has been done combproblem. | Natalie Hayes/For

Bats have been terrifying residents of Pickwick Place for years, and many say not enough has been done to combat the problem. | Natalie Hayes/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 3, 2013 2:41AM

As night falls in a sleepy Barrington town house community, a sea of black bats can be heard screeching in attics and flying through cracks to get to a nearby lake to hunt for prey.

The nocturnal creatures have been terrifying residents of Pickwick Place for years, and many say not enough has been done to combat the problem.

Kathleen Evers and her three children have lived in the development of 60 townhouses off Route 14 near Baker’s Lake for the past decade. She said the unwanted guests begin making their homes in attics and walls each spring before flying away in late fall.

The Evers family is afraid to go into their basement. On one occasion, a bat flew into the kitchen during a family dinner, sending Evers and her daughter running out the door while her 15-year-old son trapped the bat in a shoebox.

“At one point, I thought it was my fault that somehow the bats were attracted to my home, but everyone here is having the same problem,” Evers said. “We hear them moving around in the walls at night, and they’re just huge. You never know when one is going to land on you. I just don’t want to live with bats anymore.”

Some Pickwick Place residents have taken the advice of health department officials, who encouraged families to get preventative rabies shots, but Evers said she hasn’t followed suit in getting the series of pricey shots, which can cost up to $7,000.

“I haven’t done my research on them — I just want them out of my home,” she said.

After a group of residents complained to the village earlier this summer, property owner Wilfred Jacobson & Co. was fined $100 for failing to maintain the building properly, said Greg Summers, Barrington’s director of engineering and building.

Jacobson & Co., who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, hired Palatine-based Critter Control of Chicago to clean up three units of residents who had called the village to complain, Summers said.

“The village doesn’t do pest control on private property, but we have a property maintenance division that does enforcement and inspections,” Summers said. “(Jacobson & Co.) has been very responsive, and as soon as the fine was paid he showed proof that the work was done.”

But last weekend, Evers and her neighbor Leslie Carl-Clabots said the presence of bats in their homes was stronger than ever.

If the proof is in the pudding, bat droppings can be found scattered over doorsteps and patios. There are still large gaps between walls and foundations, which create routes for bats to enter and exit the homes.

Residents who continue to have bats are advised to call the village or property owner, who is responsible for addressing complaints from every unit, Summers said.

“(The property owner) should take care of all the units, and not just one or two,” Evers said.

Not every home has bats, however.

Carl-Clabots’ home is next to Evers’, but she hasn’t found any bats in her home in the five years she’s lived at Pickwick Place.

The mother of two teen boys said her family enjoys the bats and even heads out to relax on a backyard hammock each evening to watch the swarm of 30 to 50 bats fly overhead to the lake.

“I think there’s more hype and hysteria than there should be, and I think (bats) are misunderstood because of the whole vampire thing,” Carl-Clabots said. “If they were inside my house, I might feel a little different though.”

Carl-Clabots said she once saw a neighbor swinging a tennis racket at a bat after it was shooed from a home.

“I’m on the ‘pro’ side of these bats,” she said. “I hate to see them being hurt.”

Bats are helpful in controlling the insect population: They’re able to eat several hundred insects in a few hours, according to Bat Conservation International.

But bats also are feared for their ability to carry rabies, a virus that attacks the nervous system and is almost always fatal.

Although human rabies infections are rare, five bats have tested positive for rabies in suburban Cook County this year, according to the Cook County Health Department.

Someone who wakes up to a bat in his or her room should not attempt to touch or remove the bat, and should call the Health Department, officials advise. If the bat can’t be found and tested, health department officials recommend rabies treatment as a precaution.

Ron Bishop, Jacobson’s property owner for Pickwick Place, said his company has paid for rabies vaccines for all residents who chose to get the shots. He added that the property owner has been very responsive to all complaints.

“We do everything around here for the tenants,” Bishop said. “People don’t understand these bats, and the village doesn’t do anything about it — they tell us to do it.”

Bat removal isn’t as simple as removing other pests like rats or mice, because the flying mammals are a protected species under state law.

Baby bats, known as pups or kits, are often born in the summer and don’t learn to fly for about six weeks. Since it’s illegal to kill a bat, exterminators use a method called exclusion to rid homes of bats.

A one-way door is installed so bats can fly out when they’re old enough, and exterminators deodorize the attic spaces where bats make their homes, Summers said.

“We’ve ensured that they’ve inspected all the buildings (where complaints were filed) to make sure they’re properly sealed,” Summers said.

While some residents continue to battle bats, others like the Carl-Clabots family are embracing their fanged neighbors. They recently went to an educational session on bats at Barrington’s Crabtree Nature Center.

Gabe Carl-Clabots said he was fascinated to learn how bats swoop down and skim the water to gobble up pesky insects like mosquitoes.

“The bats are great,” Gabe said. “We love seeing them every night. Last night, I counted 35 that flew out of here in just a few minutes.”

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