Tom Regner’s reputation as a bat conservationist has earned him the nickname “Batman.” Witty remarks such as “Hey, Batman where’s Robin?” don’t phase him. It comes with his line of work.
Regner’s company, Town Lake Construction, specializes in removing bats from buildings and preventing their return as well as doing maintenance and construction in high-rise structures. About 25 percent of his business is devoted to bats and he employs three bat specialists.
A conservationist at heart, Regner’s interest in bats began when a development company he worked for in the early ‘80s bought an apartment building that was home to a bat colony. He worked to safely evict the unwanted flying tenants in that building and his dedication to bats took flight.
After encountering several bat colonies on construction projects, he sought out Bat Conservation International (BCI), an Austin-based organization dedicated to conserving bat habitats and providing bat-related education and research.
Regner says Barbara French, science officer for BCI, was an important influence. She taught him how to remove bats from a major construction project. “Barbara was very helpful in providing me with information on how to safely handle the bat situation.”
Working with French and BCI, Regner began using a method called exclusion. It employs a special caulk that does not trap bats inside buildings or use poisons. It allows the bats to safely exit the building and prevents them from returning. This is a permanent and cost-effective way to remove bats from buildings, Regner says.
When they’re removing bats, Regner and his team might spend the day strapped in harnesses similar to the ones used by window washers. “It is essential to be fearless of heights, bats, and working in extreme weather,” adds Regner. “It is not all that pretty, but indeed rewarding to care for the animals.”
When Regner has successfully removed bats from a building without harming them or the building’s structure, he feels his job has been well done. “Many times, pest control companies end up killing the bats, or damage the building itself,” he says. “We attempt to not harm either one.”
Regner’s most memorable project has been working on a 12-floor building downtown. “Every horizontal column on every floor had bats,” he says. “It took a month to finish.”
Regner’s latest foray into the world of bats involves much smaller buildings. He’s creating a line of bat houses. The typical house is 2-feet wide, 3-feet tall and about 41/2 inches deep. The rectangular houses have layers inside arranged like a sandwich. These bat houses can hold about 200 bats.
If the houses take off, they are set to be included in BCI’s catalog. Regner may prove once again that bats can be good for business.
By Evelyn Valdez
Special Sections Writer