Bats face evictions at health building


Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2004 at 10:05 p.m.

Facts

Dealing with bats

  • Free-tailed bats are common to the area, according to Dr. Randy Caliguiri, director of Alachua County Animal Services. When the bats fly out at dusk in search of food, he said, an excluder device will be installed to block their access to the building.

  • The Alachua County Health Department has some unwelcome guests that moved in for the New Year and just keep hanging around.
    County health Director Tom Belcuore said the staff discovered early this week that a group of free-tailed bats have made themselves at home beneath the roof of the community support services building at the main health department facility on SE 24th Street.
    As the reluctant host, Belcuore said Friday, "We will deal with the bats in a humane way, but we don't plan to put the health of any of our staff or visitors at risk because they've moved in."
    The bats had settled in a crawl space, and during the past week, several were found within health department offices and were removed.
    Free-tailed bats are common to the area, according to Dr. Randy Caliguiri, director of Alachua County Animal Services. Caliguiri is helping the health department deal with their unwanted visitors.
    When the bats fly out at dusk in search of food, Caliguiri said, an excluder device will be installed to block their access to the building.
    "When the bats come back, they can't get in, so they find a natural habitat or somewhere else to move in," Caliguiri said.
    County staff placed mesh along the roofline Thursday evening, based on the recommendations of Florida Wildlife Care Inc.
    Caliguiri that this is a good time to send the bats on their way, because there are no babies involved. The bats breed in the spring, and if the parent bats were shut out of their new home then, their young would starve as a result.
    "Since this isn't breeding season, it's the ideal time to address the problem," Caliguiri said.
    "Once they're out and the area is cleaned up, the problem is over with."
    Belcuore said once the bats have left the building, "we'll have the appropriate people with biohazard precautions come in to remove any guano."
    The freeloaders won't be offered a cozy bat house on the health department grounds as an alternative home.
    "You wouldn't want one right next to the public health unit because of the possible rabies issue that is associated with bats," Caliguiri said.
    County spokesman Chris Eversole said the county is working with groups interested in bats to perhaps erect a bat house somewhere in east Gainesville.
    Even if you built a bat house, it wouldn't assure the bats would come, he said.
    "It takes a year or two for the bats to find a bat house and say 'This is a good place, let's move in and make it our home,' " Caliguiri said.
    He points to the roomy bat house on the University of Florida campus. Although it is fully occupied now, it took some time for the bats to populate it.
    "That's just a fact of bat life," he said.
    Belcuore said that any plans for dealing with the bat problem will not include killing them. That would be unnecessary, he said.
    Caliguiri agrees.
    "You don't have to kill them. Just exclude them and let them do their own thing."
    Diane Chun can be reached at 374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com.

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