The most common species of bats in Central Texas is the Mexican free-tailed bat. The migratory mammal is an important animal, as each night it consumes almost its body weight of agricultural pests such as moths, flying ants, weevils, stinkbugs and ground beetles.
Bats can become a nuisance when they roost in large numbers in residences and buildings. Costly damage can occur if bat colonies are left unchecked for an extended period of time. Most damage results from bat urine and droppings, commonly known as “guano.”
Town Lake Construction specializes in the removal of bats from commercial and residential buildings. The specialists were in Lampasas last week to remove bats from a building owned by Todd and Nona Jane Briggs and his sister, Kay Briggs, at the corner of Western and Fourth streets, which houses Busy Bee Laundromat.
Tom Regner, owner of Town Lake Construction, said the company follows a procedure to ensure complete removal of all roosting bats from buildings, including initial inspection to determine the scope of infestation and identification of obvious entry points. On larger projects, crew members will survey a building at dusk when bats emerge, to determine exit and entry points, Regner added.
“Bats love to roost in these old limestone buildings,” he said. “We remove the bats in a humane manner.”
Secondary exit and entry points are sealed with caulking guns, Regner said.
“Then we install customized exclusion devices at all major entry and exit points,” Regner said. The device resembles a window screen with netting that enables bats to leave but not get back inside.
“The bats are not captured, killed or physically removed, but the bats that once occupied the building must find another location to roost.”
Several days after exclusion devices are installed, roosting bats will have left a building in search of food and water, Regner added.
“At this point, we come back, remove the exclusion devices and permanently seal the points of entry,” the bat specialist said. “If necessary, custom-made vacuums will be used to extract existing bat guano accumulations, and after that is removed all affected areas will be treated with an organic biocide to remove odor and neutralize any harmful bacteria.”
Bat guano fetches high prices. In Austin, a small bag or one pint can sell for more than $8.
Many people have a misunderstanding about bats, Regner said.
“Bats have been killed, but that is not necessary,” he said. “Bats being migratory are a federally protected species. Persons may be fined up to $10,000 for poisoning or killing bats.” There reportedly are exclusions for people who exterminate bats on their own property, however.
On rare occasions, persons have been bitten by a rabid bat. The latest research indicates that only ½ of 1 percent of the bat population ever contracts rabies. Over the last 50 years only 18 people have died from bat-contracted rabies. Most bites from rabid bats occur when someone picks up a sick, “downed” bat without proper hand protection.
Regner said children or adults should never handle a downed bat.
“If it is essential that you handle a bat, wear heavy leather work gloves,” the bat specialist said. “Like most wild animals, bats will bite to protect themselves. However, bats are not ‘gnawing rodents’ and cannot bite you through heavy work gloves.”
Town Lake Construction has more than 22 years of experience. Some recent bat removal projects include the Texas State Library Archives, Foley’s Department Store and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
“The Lampasas bat removal is a typical medium-size job,” Regner said.
“It may be a medium job to Town Lake Construction, but if you have bats in your building, it is a very big problem,” said Nona Jane Briggs.
The bat-removal company can be reached at (512) 444-5955 or online at www.batspecialist.com. The company also specializes in removal of snakes and nuisance birds such as pigeons.
By Mat Taylor
Lampasas Dispatch Record