No law prevented Mike Weaver from evicting the messy tenants in his home along the Spokane River.
But even though they wanted to remodel and make use of the attic in their classic old home for their own expanding family, the Weavers voluntarily accepted the good-landlord challenge of relocating about 10,000 bats.
That’s no typo: 10,000 of the species known as “little browns.”
“He could have just sealed them out and left them out in the cold, but he went above and beyond for the cause of wildlife,” said Steve Sprecher of the National Resource Conservation Service office in Spokane Valley.
In an effort they’ve endured for more than three years, the Weavers applied for a grant through the NRCS critical habitat incentive program. They were rewarded with a $9,000 through the agency and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to build and install a bat condo along the river near their house off Rutter Parkway.
While Mike Weaver was up to his knees – no exaggeration – in shoveling bat guano out of his attic, the money was addressed to the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council. Calling on its stable of skilled volunteers and the support of Ziegler’s Lumber, the council was able to turn the effort into a fund-raising project.
“We’ve been building this thing at the council office in our spare time for months,” said Adam Soucy, who was donating his professional contracting skills and equipment last week to put the finishing touches on the condo.
A boom truck was needed to mount the 8-by-8-by-8-foot structure 10 feet off the ground on four concrete-embedded posts on the Weaver property.
The fascinating design was developed into pages of detailed plans after years of research by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The condo includes rows of plywood baffles that create very slim ¾-inch roosting crevices.
Seems like the bats have to flatten like roadkill just to get into squeeze into bed.
But the condo also includes an inside flyway where young bats can exercise and learn to fly.
Seems like a civilized feature a few Spokane housing developers should take note of.
The interior surfaced had to be laboriously roughened, said John Smith, who was working with Soucy on the site last week. “The bats need the rough surface to grab with their toes,” he said.
The little browns and a few big brown bats that still live in Weaver’s attic have raised their young that they’re fattening for the winter. Soon they’ll be leaving for wherever it is that they hang out from November to March, said Howard Ferguson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.
“Some of the bats have been displaced for years after they took down the boxes that were full of bats on the side of their house,” Ferguson said. “I’ve never seen little bat houses mounted on a home being used as well as those were. This place certainly has an attraction to bats.”
Where the bats go to hibernate through the winter is a mystery.
“We know they like places that stay at a stable temperature, even if it’s a cold temperature,” Ferguson said.
Caves are popular hibernacula – wintering sites – he said.
“When bats return next spring and find the attic sealed even further, we hope they will take up residence and build a new colony in the bat condo,” he said. “It could take three to five years. There’s no guarantee.
“Now we just have to wait and see.”