Extraction plan for the bats was to commence on Aug. 1.
For the past three or four weeks, employees at the Fremont County Courthouse have grown tired of “the head swivel,” which is the term Arnold Emberton of the county's IT department coined to describe people's instinctive response to bats fluttering around their workplace. Emberton said that the head swivel is, however, “a pretty good alarm (mechanism).”
Recently, roofing crews working atop the courthouse discovered bats roosting in the chimney cap. The commotion from the roof repairs forced some of the bats out of their home and into the boiler exhaust pipe. As they couldn't fly back up the narrow chimney, there was only one escape route—into the building.
County officials called “The Bat Experts” in Omaha, who took a look at the situation. They found no bats in the building, only in the chimney cap, where two colonies were competing for the same space.
The firm plans to set up “bat tubes” through which the bats can fly out of, but not back into the building. The roofers will also attach a screen on the chimney.
It will take two weeks to get rid of the critters and seal the holes. But because regulations forbid disturbing the bats during mating season, which is now, the work can't be performed until August.
“August first,” said Emberton emphatically. “We've had some employees with close encounters with bats.”
The Bat Experts' inspection turned up signs of previous bat encounters. They discovered an old bat tube made out of an empty caulking tube that someone installed some time ago.
“Bats can get through a hole as small as your little finger,” said Emberton. “You can usually tell where they've gotten in because they leave a greasy film in the hole.”
Bats are not especially dangerous to humans, Emberton said. “When they get in, they're looking for a way out….Nuisance is a good word for it. We don't consider it a danger. You hear all these stories about rabies, but that can be contracted from many animals—dogs, raccoons, and so on.”
In fact, rabies infections from bats are rare. There is some danger of health problems from the droppings of bats (“bat guano”). Airborne spores from the guano can be inhaled and cause a serious respiratory infection called histoplasmosis.
But histoplasmosis spores are not confined to bat guano. The fungus can be present in any soil that has been exposed to droppings from animals infected with histoplasmosis.
The University of California's Integrated Pest Management Program reports that in one case from 1970, nearly 400 middle school students developed the disease after breathing the spores through their school ventilation system following a clean up of the school’s courtyard as an Earth Day project. Bats were not mentioned in the case study.------
Emberton said that no bat guano was found in the courthouse. The maintenance crew sweeps the building for bats and bat droppings each morning.
Emberton knows of Hamburg residents who've had bats in their attics and had them removed. He has seen them around old barns in the area.
“They're fascinating but nerve-racking. I'll be glad to get them out of here,” Emberton said. “But they're just part of nature. They were here before I was, and will be here after I'm gone.”