Thousands of bats to be moved from E. Texas buildings

Published: May. 26, 2016 at 9:20 PM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2016 at 9:35 PM CDT
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(Source: KLTV Staff)
(Source: KLTV Staff)
(Source: KLTV Staff)
(Source: KLTV Staff)

PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) - Bats have invaded an East Texas city.

Palestine city officials say they have thousands of bats living in their historic downtown, and they're worried the animals will hinder revitalization efforts.
Downtown Palestine is filled with dozens of masonry buildings built in the late 1800's. That's where Mexican-freetail bats have made their home.

"They roost shoulder-to-shoulder. Almost like they're at a concert; they are just packed in," said Jacob Morris, Historic Preservation Officer.

Morris says the bats are about the size of a thumb and there are thousands living in the upper levels of vacant downtown buildings.

City officials said during the winter, bats migrate out of town. In the spring and summer months, they come back to the downtown buildings to mate.

"What they leave behind is guano, and the guano reacts with the wood of the masonry, and it kind of has a strong ammonia smell," said Main Street Manager Greg Laudadio.

Officials will also tell you having so many bats in the city has it's benefits.

"Chemical pesticides, we don't have to use, because the bats eat up all the mosquitoes. So in Palestine, they do a lot of work for us," Morris said.

As the city works to revitalize its downtown, they are working to get the bats out and bring businesses in.

"Not to just exclude them, but to find ways to create environments that are positive for the community and for the bats," Laudadio said.

The Palestine Economic Development Corporation is allowing developers to apply for a grant-matching fund up to $25,000 for building clean-up and repairs.

"You time the work where you fill in any little holes, you screen in any openings to prevent them from coming in there when they've moved out for the winter," Laudadio said.

Even though they want the bats out of the buildings, they want to keep them in the city.  The city plans on building bat houses near the buildings they used to call home.

City officials say the cost of repairs and clean-up will vary by building. They plan on having bat houses built by the fall.

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