Friday, June 30, 2000

Landlord told to rid building of bats

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORTH COLLEGE HILL — The owner of an apartment complex here is under orders by the Hamilton County General Health District to rid a building of bats.

        Evidence of bats has been found on a balcony outside one apartment in the building at 1558 West Galbraith Road. The tenant has been moved.

        The primary problem with bats or any wild mammals getting into living quarters is the threat of rabies. Gary Parks, of the Ohio Department of Health, said about 4 percent of bats the department tests are positive for rabies. This year, eight have tested positive, two from Hamilton County. In 1999, 30 tested positive, and 33 in 1998.

        Tim Ingram, county health commissioner, said he could think of just two times in about 15 years in which orders had to be issued concerning bats having gotten into buildings.

        “It's not a routine event,” said Mr. Ingram. “They're not out there looking for houses to get into.”

"No big deal'
        Chris Eddy, director of environmental health for the county health department, said the owner of the complex has been “cooperative in abating this problem,” and has 10 days from June 23 to correct it.

        “There is no big deal,” said Ron Lipson, owner of the Northcreek Apartments. “I've been 100 percent cooperative.”

        He said Thursday that he has two pest-control companies bidding on the work.

        “They are supposed to be giving me prices, hopefully very quickly, and we're going to treat it,” said Mr. Lipson. “We're doing what we got to do. I'll do what the board of health and the professionals say should be done.”

        Jackie Belwood, a bat biol ogist with the Ohio Biological Survey who has worked with health departments and pest-control firms on bat infestations, said bats can be humanely excluded from human living quarters.

        Bat exclusion, she said, “is the only method recommended by the National Pest Control Association. I love bats dearly, but I'm the first person to tell anyone they don't have to live with them if they don't want to. First, it needs to be confirmed what's in there.”

        It is uncommon for bats to colonize an occupied dwell ing, preferring caves, mines or hollow trees. Bery Pannkuk, technical director at Scherzinger, a pest-control company, said they do 50 to 150 bat exclusions each year.

        “You never want to kill a bat,” said Mr. Pannkuk. “They are a very beneficial animal. They eat a lot of bugs.”

How it's done
        While his company has not been asked to bid on the work here, he said bat exclusion involves figuring out where the bats have gotten into a dwelling, then placing plastic netting over the opening that allows bats to leave to feed at night but prevents them from returning. Once it's determined all have left, then the points of entry are sealed.

        Both Ms. Belwood and Mr. Pannkuk say that is the only effective way of eliminating bats in any case. Fumigating them with chemicals is probably illegal and poses a more substantial health risk.

        “That could make all of the bats quite sick,” said Ms. Belwood. “They could be flapping around outside where kids can get them, pets can get them. Bats will bite in self-defense.”

Bat babies at risk
        A further complicating factor this time of year, say Mr. Pannkuk and Ms. Belwood, is that bats are in the middle of having established maternity colonies — female bats with nursing babies.

        While the female bats may leave at night to feed, their babies would be left behind. A bat exclusion would prevent the females from returning to their babies, which would then starve to death.

        “The babies are going to die,” said Mr. Pannkuk. “During this season we explain what's going on. I'd say 99.9 percent of the people don't want dead or dying baby bats. So they wait, and we wait.”

        Jennifer Bierer, of the health department, said that when Mr. Eddy and other health officials inspected the apartment, they did not see any bats, but found bat droppings on an outside balcony.

        Some residents said they have not seen any bats, and fliers passed out to the residents by health officials asked them to call if they've seen bats in the past six months.

        “We have not received any phone calls,” said Ms. Bierer.

        “We're jumping into it as fast as we can,” said Mr. Lipson.


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