Downtown becomes a regular target for bat removal

This spring, on an ordinary night, Hollyhocks owner Gloria Herriott was sleeping soundly in her loft above her downtown store when she felt something hit her head. She lifted the covers to find a bat hanging from the ceiling fan.

It was then that Herriott decided enough was enough.

First, she tried a $100 bat sonar that emits high frequencies to deter bats, but it never worked. Then she hired a contractor to seal the holes in her apartment’s brick wall, some of which were no bigger than a penny. The same cannot be said for the cost of the work: $400.

Similarly, Becky Scott, owner of the building at 210 Fifth St. S. that houses J. Broussard’s restaurant on the first floor and apartments upstairs, said she paid more than $1,000 for remove bats that were nesting inside an old metal decorative piece. the top of the building.

“I think it had reached a point where I could feel it in our building,” Scott said.

Scott also said that at night she could see the bats flying out of the old Kwik Kopy print building next door before they also infested her building.

“There was a major bat problem,” Scott said. “I could watch them flying from the back of that building at night the whole time.”

Critter Capture, an Alabama-based wildlife and pest removal company, has removed bats from four downtown businesses in the past six months and approximately 12 residences in Columbus since it first began serving the region in 2010.

Besides the irritation associated with bats nesting in a building, the guano they leave behind is dangerous to humans when it produces fungi. The fungus can enter the lungs and cause histoplasmosis, a respiratory disease, according to a report on bat guano by the Environmental Protection Agency.

When services like Critter Capture arrive, workers have to find the entry point, sometimes smaller than a penny; then they put a net over it where the bats can escape but not come back. Once they’re gone, workers apply a sealant like putty or silicone to the holes, then clean the nesting area of ​​guano and bat residue.

Critter Capture office manager Lea Hartley told The Dispatch that the cost of bat removal varies greatly depending on the size of the bat colony inside the building and whether the company will have to clean up the guano left behind by the creatures.

“I mean, we’re working on a church now that’s going to cost $150,000,” Hartley said. “So depending on the size of the building, it can go very high.”

A bat sits on a windowsill in the former Commercial Dispatch newsroom. Bats have recently been flying into downtown businesses and homes. Grant McLaughlin/Dispatch Team

Critter Capture doesn’t actually capture bats, which means they could easily move to a nearby building. According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, three of the 15 species of bats native to Mississippi are federally protected, meaning it’s illegal to kill them.

Moving companies must also have a trapper’s license to operate in the state.

“That’s why pest control companies can’t come in and spray some kind of poison and kill all the bats in your attics; it’s illegal,” said Leslie Burger, associate professor of wildlife at Mississippi State University.

Burger noted that as land in the region continues to expand and land is cleared for construction, bats will use human habitation for shelter from falling temperatures and predators.

“It’s a safe place for them,” Burger said. “They are using our human dwellings and structures because there is not as much habitat for them as there once was.”

Local developer Chris Chain, who is developing the Old Stone Hotel on Fifth Street into an apartment/retail space, said he often deals with bats in his downtown buildings. He said he usually removes them himself. The one time he hired a wildlife removal company, it cost him over $6,000.

“It’s very expensive for just one of my attics,” Chain said. “I was bowled over by the price it cost.”

Still, he said bats are only part of the downtown landscape.

“It’s just the nature of a downtown building,” Chain said. “I mean they are everywhere.”

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