By Rob Pavey| Staff Writer
They arrive in Augusta each spring -- just before the golf fans -- and linger until late November.
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.
When storms toppled an old tree near Hurst Hills Elementary school on Billie Ruth Lane in Hurst, students got an up-close look at a four-foot high beehive with thousands of bees inside. FOX 4 was there when experts removed the hive without harming the important pollinators.
By: Kevin Cherry
IT WAS LIKE A SCENE from an old horror movie. A burly Police Officer cowered with a tennis racket in hand, while the petite Homeowner fearfully peered over his shoulder. A Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) flew from room to room, dodging the frantic racket swings of the Officer in pursuit. As absurd as this scenario appeared, it was nothing new for me--just a typical day's work for our Company! Fortunately, I arrived in time to prevent injury to the bat, damage to the people, or to the furniture. I proceeded to easily remove the frightened bat from the living room curtains, where it had landed.
In the past, the Animal Control industry has done little to alleviate the fears of Homeowners or to develop humane solutions for bat removal. Poisons, repellents, and death have been the legacy of the exterminator. But education is slowly changing that story.
Although the Homeowner in this particular instance had encountered only one bat, there were actually more than 50 Big Brown Bats roosting in her chimney, as is often the case. A chink in the bricks' mortar allowed them to crawl in through the fireplace, where they apparently had been living for years.
The Lady of the house seemed apprehensive but curious, as I explained the positive side of bats. She was squeamish as many Homeowners are, about sharing her space with any small, wild animal. I talked about how bats provide insect control, but I didn't really get her attention until I mentioned how bat guano could do wonders as a fertilizer for her flowers!
When I returned to this particular home at sundown, a crowd of neighbors had gathered to watch the bats come out to feed. Several families brought picnic dinners, and children clustered around me, full of questions. As darkness fell, I used a spotlight to illuminate the bats as they were exiting. Flurries of bats flew overhead, and then out to feed on moths near the street lights.
If you haven't looked up in your attic lately, these attic-dwelling creatures could be calling your home theirs. Many States have laws that protect bats, so whatever you do, call Trutech Inc.! We are licensed and insured Professionals, who are trained and skilled in the humane removal of bats. We also specialize in the preventative measures to keep them from re-entering your home!
With machete in hand, Steve Stewart worked his way through the swamp, hearing the cries of a young dog. The cry started to fade when he approached an area of the swamp. He found the dog buried in quick sand up to its neck. With one paw clinging onto a branch, inches away from death, Steve was able to drag the dog out of the swamp onto dry land. He carried the Labrador in both arms through the swamp to safety. The customer's eyes were red from crying profusely. Then in the distance she saw Steve Stewart, exhausted with a hundred pound Labrador in both arms. The customer ran to him dreading that the dog was dead. The customer was at the dog's side hoping he would lift his head and when he heard her voice he did. She said she had never been so scared in her life. Because of Trutech and their brave Technician, her dog had a chance to live another day!
One look at the scene and your stomach turned. The ground was alive beneath your feet as tens of thousands of Norway rats scurried back and forth, in and out of their burrows. These rats showed no regard for the tenants as they regularly snatched food right out of their hands. I was looking at the grounds of a local apartment building.
The tenants seemed to be used to this disgusting display, accepting their plight. What stood out on this day was the emergence of the usually absent Rat King. This beast, easily as large as a house cat, would typically reign from below. Today he sauntered around the grounds surveying his kingdom, perhaps looking for other nearby apartment complexes to conquer. Perhaps he could sense what was to come though, that today was unlike any other.
This day was different indeed. Today, the Rat Men of Trutech, Inc. were on the scene and prepared to dethrone the King. Randy, Jeff and new trainee, Adam, were armed with the best ammunition available and stormed in with a vengeance. At first, the Rat King was unphased, thinking he would easily dispense of the intruders like he had done on previous occasions. As the Rat Men moved closer and closer, purging their path of any and all rodents, his demeanor changed. One could see the panic spread over his face and he began to retreat. Randy made the first move and blocked his retreat, while Jeff and Adam flanked him on either side; he was trapped.
With a full on assault, the Rat Men of Trutech were able to purge the premises of the mighty rat kingdom. The residents applauded in appreciation for the hard work, fortitude and bravery of these men.
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