Bats Find Unwanted Home at St. Joseph

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Bats are not uncommon visitors in these parts this time of year, but where they're visiting right now is rare.

St. Joseph Regional Health Center is working to remove the mammals from their facilities, but they say their patients aren't at risk.

Usually, bats show up in the small cracks and corners of St. Joseph outside. The center wanted them gone, so they hired a pest control company to canvas the facility.

"Everybody believed all the bats had left the building and were not back in," said Tim Ottinger, a spokesman at St. Joseph, "so we began to seal up all the same crevasses in the building where the bats might get in. What everyone didn't know is there were still some bats in behind some of the walls."

And the bats soon ventured where no bat had gone before: to the halls and rooms of the building, most specifically, the third floor of the hospital, which includes pediatrics, labor and delivery and the nursery.

"We visited with all the patients, allowed them whatever we needed to do," Ottinger said. "Nobody has asked to leave or go home or transfer or any other issues."

The Mexican Freetailed bats are always migrating to the Brazos Valley this time of year. Downtown Bryan and Kyle Field are notable hideouts already. But as buildings age and communities grow, they'll likely find more places to drop by.

"Increased habitat loss forces them into places that they normally wouldn't roost," said Missy Young, a bat expert with the Texas A&M College of Vet Medicine. "But it does offer them a lot of protection from predators, and it also gives them a roosting site."

"If there's anything, at the end of this, we'll probably have more expertise in doing this than anyone else around to keep our facilities tight, to understand what happens in this situation," said Ottinger.

St. Joseph officials say around two dozen bats have shown up inside the building so far, but this breed does not often carry diseases like rabies according to health officials.