Bat laws in Ontario

Is It Legal To Kill Bats In Ontario?

Home owners with a bats in their attic often ask us whether it is illegal to kill them or not. This page clarifies the laws, acts and statutes related to the treatment of bats in Ontario, including what you can do to remove them legally and humanely if they’ve built a colony on your property.

In Ontario the law is clear. Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, is it illegal to kill bats even if they’ve intruded into your home or attic. The Act lists several species of bats in Ontario that are considered Specially Protected Mammals, which cannot be killed, trapped or hunted.

The 8 species of bats that are designated as Specially Protected Mammals in Ontario are as follows:

Common Name Scientific Name
Big Brown Bat Eptesicus fuscus
Eastern Pipistrelle Bat (Tricolored Myotis) Perimyotis sublavus
Hoary Bat Lasiurus cinereus
Least (Small-footed) Bat Myotis leibii
Little Brown Bat Myotis lucifugus
Northern Long-eared Bat Myotis septentrionalis
Red Bat Lasiurus borealis
Silver-haired Bat Lasionycteris noctivagans

Of all the bats listed as Specially Protected Mammals, the Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) is one of the species of bats that are most commonly found in attics, and it has gained special attention as an endangered species under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act.

The 3 species of bats now considered endangered in Canada are the Little Brown Bat, the Tri-coloured Bat and the Northern Myotis.

The bat epidemic has become so severe that several wildlife organizations have banded together to help conserve bat populations, educate the public about the dangers of their declining numbers, and to bring awareness as to why they are an important factor to the overall health of our environmental ecosystems.

Why are these bats endangered?

The reason certain species of bats in Canada have become endangered is because of the spread of a fungus that causes White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), which is a fungal skin infection that thrives in cooler climates and grows around their ears, nose and wings.

White-nose syndrome (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) typically makes bats sick by rapidly consuming their stores of fat, and essentially causing them to starve to death.

This deadly disease has spread to thousands of bat colonies throughout North America, and it has been estimated that since it’s discovery in 2007 that over 6 million bats have become affected and died. This year alone (2017) White-nose syndrome has been detected as far south as Texas.

Below is a map that has tracked the occurrences of White-nose syndrome in bats in North America from 2006 to 2017:

White-nose syndrome occurrence by district

What can you do if you have bats in your attic?

If you have bats in your attic be careful. Many websites state that you can remove bats yourself but the truth is you probably can’t without causing the bats undue stress or potentially killing them. The best decision you can make if you have bats in your attic is to call a company that provides bat removal services, and make sure they abide by the laws regarding protected species, and that they ensure the bats’ safety during the removal process.

A professional bat removal company will also advise you as to the right time of the year bats can be removed. According to Bat Conservation International:

Bat exclusion should NEVER be performed during any period when bats do not leave their roost on a regular nightly basis. This includes during maternity season in the summer, hibernation or torpor (a less lengthy period of inactivity) in winter and during periods of inclement weather. Maternity season dates vary by region and are species-specific; though not typical, some tropical and subtropical species in southern regions may give birth twice a year.

In Ontario, bats should not be removed from a home during inclement weather; during mid-winter, and during their maternity season which lasts from mid-June to the beginning August. Removing them during these times will put the baby bats at risk of getting trapped in the attic where they’ll most likely die of starvation because they can’t fly.

Bats come out of winter hibernation between March and April, but it is only after the maternity season in August that humanely removing them becomes an option.

Attic contamination by bats

When the bats have been removed accordingly, contamination from the infestation can pose serious health risks to home owners. The risks to you and your family include:

  • contracting diseases like Capsulatum, Histoplasma
  • infestations of bat bugs, ticks and fleas
  • bat guano can pass histoplasmosis to humans and pets
  • although rare, if you’re bit by a bat you could contract rabies

Cleaning up the attic contamination

You’ll also be required to hire a company that provides attic restoration services for wildlife, in order to decontaminate your attic from bat urine, guano and other debris. The job should be done by a professional company that utilizes the appropriate safety equipment, gloves and proper cleaning products so as to ensure the areas affected are safe for humans to use.

Spread the word, and do your part

As of 2017, the current epidemic with respect to the declining bat population numbers means getting the word out is pertinent to their survival as a species. The more we understand the problem sweeping bat colonies across Ontario (and the rest of Canada), the better advised we’ll be if we encounter them in our homes.

Do your part by making sure the bat removal company you consider hiring fully understands the laws that surround interactions with bats, and if they don’t, then find another company. Usually pest control companies that advertise as humane wildlife removal specialists, handle bat infestations according to the law, and apply long term entry prevention methods without harming the bats and their numbers. Spread the word!

2 responses to “Is It Legal To Kill Bats In Ontario?”

  1. Great little article but you have one error! Pipistrellus subflavus – the eastern pipistrelle is now called Perimyotis sublavus (the Tricolored Myotis)….which you mention in the text…but have wrong in your table. :-) And while your explanation of how WNS works is “kinda” right, the way it actually ends up killing bats is a little bit more complicated, but the end result is the same – they do starve to death, but more because they have to wake, to boot up their immune systems to fight the fungal infection. Being awake in winter with no food leads to starvation. There are also issues with water loss from damaged membrane tissues. But that’s okay. Good to get the basic word out. Thanks for being bat-friendly. We are working on getting more pest control companies to this level of understanding!

  2. Thank you for the correction Susan, the table has been updated! And thank you for your accompanying information – very much appreciated!

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