Northwestern science class looks to relocate campus bats

Alva
| More

Northwestern science class looks to relocate campus bats

September 17, 2009

 Installing the bat box.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s Dr. Aaron Place (left) and Chris Cole install one of the two bat boxes purchased to help remedy the campus bat problem. Bats like warm conditions, and it is suggested the boxes be mounted at least 12 feet above the ground on a pole, tall tree without obstructions or on the side of a building. This box was placed on the south side of the physical plant building, directly across from the Student Center. The boxes should become occupied within a year to three years. If not, the box should be relocated.
 Inside of the bat box.
The inside of the bat box is covered with nylon mesh for the bats to hold onto with their toenails. It measures 24 inches tall, 14 inches wide and is six inches deep and will house up to 300 bats. The boxes were purchased after members of the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Wildlife Management Techniques class wrote a proposal to show how the boxes could help remedy the current campus bat problem.
It may take a few months, but members of a Northwestern Oklahoma State University science class have set out to remedy a current campus bat problem.

Last spring, students in the Wildlife Management Techniques class taught by Dr. Aaron Place, assistant professor of biology, undertook the service learning project of looking for a solution to remove the current bat population from both the Student Center, as well as the Joe J. Struckle Education Center.

Place said the students wrote a proposal to purchase two “bat boxes” that could house up to 300 bats in each box. The boxes are 24 inches tall, 14 inches wide and six inches deep. The inside is covered with nylon mesh for the bats to hold onto with their toenails.

“We knew it was a problem and had discussed nuisance wildlife and wildlife abatement in class, so we thought we would give it a shot,” Place said.

The boxes were purchased from The Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC) for about $65 each. A portion of the proceeds from the purchase goes back into bat conservation, public education and ecological research, something members of the class were happy about.

Valerie Low, Pawnee junior, and Chris Cole, Granby, Mo., senior, Biology Club members who also were part of the wildlife class, joined Place and Dr. Steve Thompson, associate professor of biology, recently for the installation of the boxes.

Place said he, other science faculty and the students have counted up to 500 bats leaving the Student Center of an evening, so one of the boxes has been placed on the back side of the Physical Plant building, directly across from the Student Center. The other box was installed on the side of the Education Center.

Low explained that because the bottoms of the boxes are open, the bat droppings will naturally drop to the ground creating a great source of good fertilizer.

Place said the boxes will serve as a more natural roosting habitat for the bats, which migrate to Alva from Mexico as early as March each year and usually leave in mid to late fall.

Place said that his group will monitor the buildings to make sure it is known where the bats are entering/exiting from. They hope to collect a few of the bats and introduce them to the boxes so that they might start using them and getting all the others to follow.

They have built a device they call an “excluder” that will be placed in the current active locations in the buildings, so the bats can get out, but they cannot get back in. Come winter, when they know all the bats have left the buildings for good, the holes will be blocked.

According to OBC information, these bat boxes have up to an 80 percent occupancy rate.

“America’s bats are an invaluable natural resource,” according to OBC information. “Due to decades of unwarranted human fear and persecution, bats are in alarming decline. By putting up a bat house, you are helping bats find a home. You will also benefit from having fewer yard and garden pests.

“As the primary predators of night-flying insects, bats play a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature. And, as consumers of vast numbers of pests, they rank among humanity’s most valuable allies. A single little brown bat can eat hundreds of mosquito-size insects an hour. A typical colony of big brown bats can protect local farmers from the costly attacks of 18 million root-worms each summer.”

So, although the bats need to be removed from the two buildings, the university does not want to get rid of them entirely.

“The bat boxes were an effort by Dr. Place and his students to rid the buildings of a huge problem while at the same time provide living quarters for the bats,” said Dr. Steve Lohmann, executive vice president. “We are very appreciative of Dr. Place and his efforts.”

To learn more about bat boxes and the OBC, please visit www.batconservation.org.  Place can be contacted at (580) 327-8673 or at ajplace@nwosu.edu.  
-NW-