The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Fly-by-night problem

Experts say downtown home to 70,000 bats

PALESTINE — Palestine residents can lay claim to being No. 1 — in bats.

A pair of bat eradication experts told city officials, downtown business owners and residents at a meeting at City Hall Tuesday afternoon that they estimated between 70,000-90,000 Mexican freetail bats have taken up residence in at least 28 downtown buildings.

Tim Hanks of Bat Solutions in San Antonio told the approximately two dozen people attending the meeting that Palestine’s downtown bat colony is the largest living in downtown buildings that he’s encountered in over 20 years of bat removal in Texas.

“I have yet to see a downtown with that many bats,” Hanks said, noting that well-known bat colonies in Austin and San Antonio, while larger, are not found in buildings.

Hanks and Jose Diaz spent Monday and Tuesday looking around downtown Palestine at the various earmarkings for the bats — piles of droppings, or guano, dead bats on sidewalks and the stench of urine and the bats themselves.

The largest group — between 12,000-15,000 — was found in the vacant Silliman Building on W. Oak Street, Hanks and Diaz said, with the empty Gregg-Link Building at the corner of Spring and Sycamore Streets coming in second.

The remainder of 10 worst sites included two in the 100 block of W. Spring St.; one on W. Oak St.; one on E. Oak St.; three on W. Main St.; and one on N. Queen St.

Apparently, the downtown buildings offer two draws for bats — cool, dark places to sleep and access to plenty of insects.

According to Hanks, the bats are able to find their way into old brick and wooden multi-story buildings with crumbling mortar, loose or missing boards and broken windows. Once inside, they often make their way into the cool, dark space in the walls between the outer layer of brick and the firewall, he said.

The longer the bats inhabit a building, the more damage they can do, Diaz said.

“Bat urine has high quantities of salt, which can rust metal,” Diaz said.

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