When Columbia resident Dionne Wilks first spotted a bat in her apartment, she was startled but didn’t think much of it. She figured it had just flown in through the open window.
“I didn’t realize it would get to this point,” she said.
Now, nearly a month later, Wilks said she and her 4-year-old son have been terrorized by a colony of at least 10 bats living in their attic space.
Wilks said she filed a work order with the Copperfield Apartments in the first week of February. After nearly a week of inaction, Wilks said she took it upon herself to call an exterminator. But when he arrived he had bad news.
“He said bats are a protected species so you can’t kill them,” she said. “He told me to tape up everything, all the vents so they couldn’t get in and just wait.”
She followed his instructions but it didn’t seem to stop the bats from flying freely in and out. Wilks said a maintenance worker from the apartment complex came to take a look at her unit last Friday but all he did was replace the tape she had already put up.
A representative from the Copperfield Apartments declined to comment. But in a statement provided to WLTX-TV, a representative from the apartment complex said the issue would be resolved by Friday. The company told WLTX that it is paying for an animal control service to remove the bats, clean out the attic and patch up the exterior.
“We respect our responsibility not only to our residents, but also to our community, the City of Columbia and the state of South Carolina,” the statement read. “We will continue to communicate with all residents affected and see that they remain informed of the progress through to completion. We want Copperfield Apartments to be a safe and pleasant place to reside and we will be reviewing our onsite maintenance procedures to prevent any instance similar from happening in the future.”
Wilks said she called the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control for help and was told that she, her son and her boyfriend should get post-exposure rabies vaccines because they had been in proximity to so many bats for such a prolonged period. The vaccines can each cost anywhere from $1,200 to $6,000, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s website.
Though her landlord agreed to pay for the exterminator she called, Wilks said the apartment complex has refused to temporarily place her in a different unit. It also has not offered to pay for the rabies vaccinations.
In the meantime, Wilks said she’s been afraid to stay in her apartment and has been bouncing between different friends’ and relatives’ houses and occasionally hotel rooms. She has started an online fundraiser to help with temporary housing and moving expenses.
“There’s no way we can cohabitate with these bats flying, screeching and screwing in our walls,” she said.