East Texas Bats: Rabies Carriers And Insect Killers - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/21/08- East Texas

East Texas Bats: Rabies Carriers And Insect Killers

They only come out at night, but many of you tell us you've already seen them hanging around. It is that time of year when bats fly in from Mexico and migrate north. And though they eat up those pesky insects, they can also carry a fatal disease, prompting health authorities to send out a warning. KLTV 7's Courtney Lane has more.

When you think of bats, you may picture the scene at The Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, where visitors from all over come to see thousands of the nocturnal creatures as they migrate north. Well, they come here as well. In East Texas, we mainly see "Mexican Free-tailed bats."

"You'll see them at night a lot in the street lamps as you're going by and it looks like birds sweeping in and out of the street lights, but they are actually bats," said Shawn Markmann with Tyler Animal Control.

That's because they're eating the insects that swarm around the lights. You may also see them hang-out around older buildings.

"There are a lot of buildings, not just in Tyler, but all across East Texas where bats tend to like to come back to," said public information officer at Trinity Mother Francis, John Moore. 

Many have been spotted over the years at Trinity Mother Francis Hospital, which was built in 1937.

"We've found bats that have gotten in through outside window seals and they've gotten into walls," said Moore. 

So, to protect their patients, the hospital hired people to come in and seal-up any cracks there may be in the building. Now, out of all the bats tested in Texas, only about 10% have rabies. A relatively low number, but still, health authorities say do not touch or go near them.

"What we get concerned about is if people find a bat on the ground or if their dog or cat brings a bat to them, then we need to test them," said Markmann. 

And since they eat up a lot of pesky insects, we actually found some East Texans trying to make the bats feel at home. 

"This is what we call a four-chamber bat house," said owner of Rubicon International, Bill Farrar.  "Most people want to do something about mosquitoes."

Rubicon International makes and sells the bat houses all across the country.

"This will hold 150 bats and as a result of that each one of them eats 2,000 mosquitoes a night," said Farrar. 

A big bite in our insect population, causing many to "go bats."

Animal control officers said make sure your pets are vaccinated for rabies. Also if you see a bat laying on the ground, remember do not touch it, simply call animal control.

Courtney Lane, Reporting  clane@kltv.com  

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