So you have a bat in your belfry, huh? Wanting to get rid of it is understandable. Sure, there are benefits to having bats around; they eat pesky mosquitoes, moths and beetles, for example. But their droppings can make quite a mess, and if they get into your living space, you run the risk of someone being bitten.

Most of the time, bats end up in your home accidentally. They may chase an insect through an open window, or they may get confused while finding their way in the dark. If one is resting on the outside of your house and gets startled, it may dart in through an opening, according to Michigan State University Extension. Or a bat could fall down a chimney without a cap screen at the top.

Regardless of how it got in, when it's flying around your living room, you just want it out. You can do it yourself, as long as you have a bit of protective gear.

Here are important precautions to take and other things to know.

Encouraging an exit

Bat on a house door Wait until the bat stops flying to try to catch it. (Photo: alexfan32/Shutterstock)

Never try to catch a flying bat, says the Bat Conservation Trust. Doing so could injure the bat, or it could bite you in self-defense. Instead, encourage the bat to leave on its own or wait until it lands to catch it.

To help the bat find its way out, first remove all pets and children from the room, then close all doors to the room, open the windows as wide as possible and dim the lights. Turn off any outside lights near the exits. Then quietly wait for it to show itself out.

To make sure it has flown out, check high spaces, such as in curtain folds or behind wall decorations, the Bat Conservation Trust advises. But also check low spaces, because if the bat is injured, it may have flown down to hide.

Getting handsy

Bat in the house Bats are small — this little brown bat is tucked into the eaves of a house — and can squeeze through spaces just half an inch wide. (Photo: Bearerofthecup/Wikimedia Commons)

If the bat has stopped flying and you want to catch it, you'll need some supplies:

  • A pair of leather gloves
  • A shoebox or similarly sized plastic container (or a towel)
  • A piece of cardboard or stiff paper

Think of it like catching a spider. First, put on your gloves (never handle a bat with bare hands). When the bat is still, cover it with the box. Slide the cardboard under it to contain the bat in the box.

Alternatively, you could cover the bat with a towel, gently scoop it up and gather the towel into a bag.

To release or not to release

If anyone in your home has been bitten by the bat, do not release it outside. The bite victim should seek immediate medical attention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say the bat should be tested for rabies. Call your local animal control office for more information. Bats have very tiny, sharp teeth; you may not even realize that you've been bitten.

If you are sure that the bat did not bite anyone, then the Bat Conservation Trust says to release it outside during the evening. (Poke holes in the container if you plan to wait to release it.) The Humane Society of the United States reminds us that bats cannot take flight from the ground, so tilt the container and let the bat fall into flight or release the bat against a tree trunk it can grab.

Evicting a roost

Bats roost in an attic Bats roost in an attic. (Photo: Dr Morley Read/Shutterstock)

Some species of bats, such as the little brown bat and big brown bat, tend to roost in houses. They enter through small openings or narrow gaps high up on your home, such as ones around loose-fitting doors, windows and utility vents, according to the Humane Society. They can fit through holes half an inch wide.

If they're roosting in your attic, the time of year can dictate whether you're even allowed to remove them. Many states prohibit evicting bats during baby season, which is May through August, according to the Humane Society. Contact your state wildlife agency to see when it's safe to get rid of bats in your area.

If you have multiple bats in your attic or eaves, your best bet may be contacting a bat removal professional. If you want to take a DIY approach, the Humane Society suggests using bat check valves. You can find more information on that here and watch how it's done in this video:

Angela Nelson ( @bostonangela ) is an exhausted mom of two young daughters and two old cats, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning digital editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and information to audiences worldwide.