Bats' annual visit can be trouble for hosts

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They arrive in Augusta each spring -- just before the golf fans -- and linger until late November.

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In this 2006 photo provided by Trutech, free-tailed bats are seen in the attic of the main sanctuary of Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Camden, S.C.  Special
Special
In this 2006 photo provided by Trutech, free-tailed bats are seen in the attic of the main sanctuary of Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Camden, S.C.

While they're here, the migrating bats raise their young and consume millions of insects during nightly feeding forays that take them hundreds of miles.

They also need someplace to stay, but freeloading bats aren't always welcome neighbors.

"Sometimes people complain about the noise, or the odor," said Lee Kennamer, a wildlife biologist with Trutech Inc., a nuisance wildlife service based in Marietta, Ga.

Mr. Kennamer and his crew are spending a week in Augusta trying to evict colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats that have taken up residence in more than a dozen apartment buildings off Washington Road.

The largest known colony of Mexican free-tailed bats is in Texas, near San Antonio, where 20 million bats consume 200 tons of insects every night.

The colony in Augusta is smaller: anywhere from several dozen to several thousand -- or even tens of thousands, he said.

Although bats are protected as nongame animals, they are also plagued by habitat loss and are easily harmed by pollution.

Mr. Kennamer's objective isn't to harm the bats. He just gets them to move.

"You find their entry points and block them," he said, pointing out tiny openings near a building's roofline where bats enter.

Such openings can be fitted with "bat valves" that serve as one-way doors that allow the creatures to leave but not re-enter.

"If they can't use their usual entry point, though, they'll look for other ways to get in," he said. "So we have to go around to all the buildings and seal up areas they might try to use to move into."

Large bat colonies typically require large food sources. Washington Road isn't a bountiful hunting ground, but the nearby open expanses of Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta Country Club, Lake Olmstead, Augusta Canal and the Savannah River might play a role in the bats' choice of roosts.

"They like ponds, pastures with flat surfaces -- any open area where they can find food," he said. "It's not unusual to find houses overlooking golf courses that have bats living inside."

Although they are gentle, abiding little creatures, bats are also noisy and can generate huge quantities of nitrogen-rich droppings, known as guano.

"Usually, this species likes to live in caves," Mr. Kennamer said. "But in places without caves, they will move into barns, houses, anything that gives them shelter."

Were it not for the abundance of manmade structures, the species might not be as stable as it is, he said.

Typically, the Mexican free-tails stay in Augusta until November, when they leave for warmer locales far to the south.

"When they're traveling, some groups are so large they show up on Doppler radar," he said.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

BAT FACTS


Bats are members of the Chiroptera family, meaning "hand-wing," and their "scoop and flap" flight makes them exceptional insect killers.


Globally, there are more than 1,000 species of bats, and many are endangered or on the brink of extinction because of interference by man.


Bats, like snakes, often face persecution based more on myth and misunderstanding than scientific fact. Although they can bite if threatened, they rarely attack people.


Augusta is home to several bat species. The most common is the Little Brown Bat, a social creature that enjoys the company of other bats and hangs out in crevices and attics.


-- Rob Pavey, staff writer

Comments (10) Add comment
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catfish20
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catfish20 04/16/08 - 06:23 am
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Remove the bats and you have

Remove the bats and you have an insect problem. I would rather have bats than insects.

UncleBill
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UncleBill 04/16/08 - 06:30 am
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Exclusion, as described in

Exclusion, as described in the article is the prefered method. However, be sure to not do exclusion during the time they have babies, or the mothers won't get back in, the babies will die, and of course that won't be nice in the attic. They give live birth (mammals you know) about May or so, and it takes about two months for them to fly out. Excluding now is OK but should be done very soon. June and July, let em fly. Then do the exclusion in August.

fd1962
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fd1962 04/16/08 - 07:42 am
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The Augusta bat colony:
Unpublished

The Augusta bat colony: either several dozen or tens of thousands? Thanks, that expertly narrows-down the population estimate of these beneficial creatures.

Rob Pavey
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Rob Pavey 04/16/08 - 08:48 am
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Because of breeding seasons,

Because of breeding seasons, the rules are that exclusion projects are allowed only until May 1, so this particular job would have to be finished by then.

DoubleD
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DoubleD 04/16/08 - 08:59 am
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I'm surprised no one has made

I'm surprised no one has made a Mexican comment yet.

swolf612000
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swolf612000 04/16/08 - 09:08 am
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I was thinking the same

I was thinking the same thing, Double D!

htj
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htj 04/16/08 - 09:53 am
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Hola y'all

Hola y'all

426Hemi
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426Hemi 04/16/08 - 10:04 am
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OK. More illegal immigrants?

OK. More illegal immigrants? Hope Mr. Kennemer served eviction notices in writing. Oh, my mistake, they're migrants, not immigrants! And here I was concerned that we'll be giving 'em free assistance. If they're born in Texas, are they granted automatic citizenship in their colonies? Did they originate in Mexico, and illegally immigrate to the USA, and if so, are they considered illegal migrants? Curious...

Newpeachfuzzsmell
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Newpeachfuzzsmell 04/16/08 - 09:11 pm
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That was cute hemi, but you

That was cute hemi, but you know all the babies born here are automatic citizens

426Hemi
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426Hemi 04/17/08 - 06:33 am
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Hewpeach, yeah, I know, and

Hewpeach, yeah, I know, and unfortunatley that's a huge reason for our population boom. These people come from Mexico, into Texas, and have their damn kids-free of charge; and as you state, automatic citizens. They come here knowing they can have a kid, and it will be their "foot in the door." The hospitals won't turn them away, and that's got to change. Now, no offence to the children since they have not had a hand in this, but this practice is killing this country, and it's a sad joke on us all. Oh, the hospitals says it will provide the service free of charge to these illegals. Now, if you or I go into a hospital without medical insurance, I betcha 10-1, we'll be turned away! Give these freeloaders a ride to the boarder, and if they can't pay with $ or pesos; they can pick some Texas oranges for our restitution.

foxyloxy
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foxyloxy 04/17/08 - 08:56 am
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I thought this article was

I thought this article was about bats not immigrant racism. Oh I forgot! This is "Disgusta" the city of bigots!.

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