A colony of Mexican free-tailed bats roosted in an exterior wall of FirstHealth Richmond Memorial hospital in Rockingham recently, and has been causing quite a stir.
The bats were discovered after staff reported hearing strange noises above the ceiling tile in the hallway on the second floor.
“The bats found a small area on an exterior wall near the roof of the hospital, between an expansion joint connecting two structures,” said Priscilla Godfrey, BSN, R.N., Richmond Memorial Hospital safety officer. “This is how the bats got in. They are primarily contained within this exterior wall.”
According to Michael Koski, owner of Get Bats Out, the building is a very common type of structure that would be appealing to bats.
“Bats basically pick high structures that are near food and water sources,” said Koski. “The construction of most buildings would permit bats to find a way to gain entry. They are wild animals, and why they picked this building versus another is hard to ascertain.”
Get Bats Out, a company that provides bat removal services nationwide, has been retained to remove the bats from the hospital. The company is known for its technique of removing bats without harming them.
“Through a process of checking the entire exterior of the building, with special attention to roof lines, all potential entry points are carefully sealed,” said Koski. “A special one-way door is installed where bats are encountered, which allows them to leave at night but they then cannot return to their roost.”
Godfrey said Get Bats Out provides a three-year warranty to monitor and ensure that the facility remains “bat free.”
Despite some unusual sightings of bats that found their way into the hospital halls, Godfrey said folks there have remained calm.
“Everyone has been very understanding and helpful as we work to remedy this issue,” said Godfrey. “We also sent three bats to Richmond County Animal Control to have them tested at the state lab. All three specimens were tested and did not have any disease, such as rabies.”
The company expects to have all of the bats removed within days.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bats and their homes
According to Endangered Species Handbook.org, until recently, bats were routinely poisoned by commercial pest control companies in the mistaken idea that all bats pose the threat of rabies transmission. Bat Conservation International documented that only one-half of one percent of bats contract rabies.
In fact, bats play an important role in the ecosystem. They are major insect controllers and plant pollinators. An individual bat can eat thousands of insects in one night.
Misinformation about bats has caused a severe decline in numbers due to eradication by poison. Human development shrinking their natural habitats have also caused populations to decline.
Building bat houses can be a fun, educational way to encourage bat populations in your community while providing bats with a space to live that’s away from homes and buildings.
To put up a bat house, look for a location that:
• Gets lots of sun;
• Will let you erect the house at least 12 to 15 feet off the ground;
• Is near a water source.
When you start building your bat house, keep in mind that bats like heat. Caulking the house to prevent drafts and painting it a dark color will help the house stay snug for the animals inside.
Complete bat house building plans can be found on websites like batcon.org, nwf.org (search for bat house) and http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/how/woodworking/building-bat-house.