“I, along with a few other folks, noticed hundreds of bats swarming inside the chimney of the school”

Bat visiting Woodley Park in 2012

From the Petworth listserv:

“To all Powell Elementary Parents,

This evening [Tuesday] while playing baseball with my son on the baseball field, my son and I, along with few other folks out on the field and soccer field, noticed hundreds of bats swarming inside the chimney of the school.

It looked like a scene from a halloween/Dracula movie. I stopped a police officer to see if he could alert the custodian since there was a door open to the school. The officer thought the section of the school thats connected to the chimney was blocked off, but wasn’t sure.

As we walked home, I’m was not sure if the officer was able to talk to anyone at the school tonight because I saw him ride towards the back of the school since no one answered the front door. We wanted parents to be aware in order to take the necessary precautions on Wednesday morning.

I’m hoping the school is sectioned off from the bats for the safety of all the students.”

Fortunately another member responds:

“Did you get a close look?

These could be Chimney Swifts – small birds that could be mistaken for bats – kinda look like cigars with wings. These birds roost in chimneys in groups, and may swarm around these roosts in the evening. During fall migrations these groups can be large.

They pose no threat. Practically speaking, neither would bats, for that matter. Little Brown Bats would be the common bat around here. They eat insects (mosquitoes) and have been hit hard with a fungus in recent years, making them much less common. We definitely want them around.”

Ed. Note: Back in June we learned a Big Brown bat in Ward 1, was determined rabid by the DC Department of Health. Fortunately Powell is in Ward 4.

30 Comment

  • hysterical parent alert. Bats are harmless. what are they going to do to your children? fly into the school and eat them? they eat mosquito’s. We need more of them in this town.

    • I live nearby, I don’t think they are bats. I’m being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

    • Emmaleigh504

      Turn them into vampires, duh!

    • You are completely incorrect- bats are the most common way to get rabies in the U.S. (http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/education/index.html)

      • PDleftMtP

        Not incorrect at all, if you read the other half of the sentence. “There are usually only one or two human rabies cases each year in the United States, and the most common way for people to get rabies in the United States is through contact with a bat.” The odds of mosquito-borne illness are much higher than one in 300 million – compare 1-2 rabies cases with 2000 cases of malaria, 2500 cases of West Nile, several hundred cases of various flavors of encephalitis, and now chikungunya

      • If you go on to read the text in the link you posted, Kelly, you’d see the following line:

        “…among the 19 naturally acquired cases of rabies in humans in the United States from 1997-2006, 17 were associated with bats. Among these, 14 patients had known encounters with bats.”

        That’s right: bats are the most common cause of rabies in humans, but there were only FOURTEEN cases of rabies in the entire USA for that time period. In other words, the risk of getting rabies from a bat, or anything, is extremely low.

        These bats are far less dangerous than the street these kids crossed on the way to school.

      • Nope Kelly, I am correct.
        I think you are misreading your link. Or didn’t read your link. Its talking about people who actually contract rabies. Where as most people get a precautionary shot after being bitten by an animal, preventing the disease.
        In the case of bats many don’t know they were bitten as it happens in the night and those that do know think that bats aren’t a rabies threat and don’t follow up. Ergo most cases of actual rabies may come from bats but bites are still very rare. And from your own link that number is……. 17 cases of rabies in 10 years.
        “For example, among the 19 naturally acquired cases of rabies in humans in the United States from 1997-2006, 17 were associated with bats.”
        The benefits of bats far out way that 1 in 10 billion chance of your darling child getting rabies. Any expert would tell you the same. I just hope the hysteria here doesn’t lead to our inept city officials exterminating a useful bat colony.

    • +1
      Bats are awesome. The city insulates kids enough from a real outdoor experience, the last thing we need to do is drum up more fear of wild things in them. If you want to raise good stewards of the world, let them live in it.

    • your point about hysterical parents aside, bats actually are not useful in controlling mosquito populations, dragonflies on the other hand.

    • Formerly Broken Jaw

      Dark Shadows anyone?

    • lol @ hysterical parent alert.

  • no matter what the outcome, it’s nice to know folks are keeping an eye on our school! Here’s the feedback we received from the principal after this heads up:

    As soon as I got your email I notified DCPS and DGS school operations. They already replied they are on it. I think what the officer said is correct. The chimney was from the old coal days for heating the school and that was blocked off the year I became principal. We have not had bats inside Powell, not the main building nor the basement. The cupola is also sealed. Someone is coming out tomorrow to check what they are (I remember our usda partners had spoken of similar birds as well as bats being native to this part of DC and they like the gardens) and they will check if they are in the upper part of the chimney.

    She was later able to confirm that the chimney area is totally blocked off from the school, so no matter how innocuous the little guys are, they are separate from the school facility used by students. And, hopefully we can all enjoy mosquito-free evenings thanks to their help!

  • I wonder why so many people have such strong negative reactions to beneficial animals like bats and snakes. While it is possible that a bat can carry rabies, it’s statistically much more likely that you’ll get West Nile from a mosquito. And snakes eat the rodents that chew up your wires and tear open your trash bags and carry disease. Snake wants nothing to do with you, your house, your trash, your pet…

  • I’d also guess swallows, not bats. As in this poem – attributed to Dylan Thomas, but I can’t definitely source it. . .



  • Good post to ask my question on: I live near Meridian Hill Park and every night at dusk there are dozens of bats swooping around, eating bugs and having a great time. Does anyone know what kind of bats they are, where they roost, etc? I am so curious about them!

  • I guess someone in DC started playing Jumanji.

  • Bats carry rabies, bat OR chimney swift poop can hosts Histoplasma fungus which can cause histoplasmosis. Either way DC schools should not be a breeding ground for animal infestations. If I were a Powell parent I would be livid. Kaya are you listening?

  • “Ed. Note: Back in June we learned a Big Brown bat in Ward 1, was determined rabid by the DC Department of Health. Fortunately Powell is in Ward 4.”

    I don’t understand how this is fortunate. Do rabid bats know not to cross ward boundaries?

  • jim_ed

    Finally, my dreams of opening an artisinal, locally sourced guano mine can be realized! DC will rule the 21st century economy with the finest saltpeter money can buy!


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