STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Last month, one of Ohio's 13 species of bats was found enjoying the humid aquatic center's air in the Ehrnfelt Recreation and Senior Complex.
A lifeguard spotted the bat clinging to an arch above one of the center's tall windows. That prompted a chain of events that may not end until spring.
Ehrnfelt's director Bryan Bogre said a ceiling's drywall collapse allowed the bat to enter the complex. The big brown bat, one of the only Ohio bats not to migrate south for the winter, was captured by Strongsville's animal warden. But worries about more bats entering from above the heated spa prompted a call to animal removal expert Jim Damian of Cages By Jim in Cleveland.
"He did confirm that we had them and at that point he told us that we couldn't do anything about the bats because they're a protected species. So at that point, we had to wait until the weather gets warmer for them to just start going out their own," Bogre said.
Damian said it's a common problem, but one that only experts should handle. Bats can carry rabies and other diseases.
Nationwise, White-Nose Syndrome, which is a fungal disease, is killing bats by the millions, according to Lake Erie Nature & Science Center's Frank Colosimo.
For now, the rec center's ceiling has been safely secured by construction crews in an effort to thwart any more uninvited guests. The complex is unable to complete any drywall job until all signs of the bats are gone following a much warmer weather inspection. The heated spa pool is also closed.
Damian said his plan is to use a special net and a one-way exit tool placed at a hole in a vent out of the complex.
"I can't tell you how many there are. It may just be the one that they found until we see a fly-out in the spring," Damian said. "Fly-out means we have to watch when they leave the building and then we can predict how many they have."
"It's a waiting game. Nobody wants to wait, but you need to wait until spring when it gets a little warmer and the bats start flying out on their own. We put a valve on the building where the location is where they are coming and going from. And then, once they leave, we can seal up the rest of the building and the problem should be taken care of," Damian said.
The constant warm, humid air sitting on the ceiling may just be why the brown bat seemed so content. It also may be why the drywall gave in and collapsed.
For Damian's animal pest removal visit: www.cagesbyjim.com or call 216-265-7580
(Big brown bat photographs courtesy of The Lake Erie Nature & Science Center 2011- 440-871-2900)