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Jun 7, 2014 12:55 PM by AP

Police station can't evict bats until mid-July

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Bats have been stinking up a northwest Louisiana police station, and they pose a dilemma.

They might have babies, and pest control companies say they generally don't evict bats during maternity season.

That means about 30 Shreveport police officers and nine Caddo Parish sheriff's deputies either have to live with the smell or vacate their offices until mid-July, when the babies can fly out.

"We've been seeing them for a couple of years," but only began smelling them this year, said Lt. Carl Townley of the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office.

Some officers have returned to their desks after tests showed there was no health hazard, Shreveport police spokesman Marcus Hines said.

The bats in question are one of the most common critters in north America: Mexican or Brazilian free-tailed bats, named for tails that extend beyond the membrane between their hind legs. They're also sometimes called Austonian bridge bats for a colony of about 1.5 million in Texas' capital city.

They normally roost in caves or under bridges. "We don't have any caves in Louisiana so they occupy buildings - in hundreds or even thousands," Craig S. Hood, a biology professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

These bats are not common in Shreveport, which is at the edge of their range, said Hood. "They're not hibernators, so they don't make their way farther north than that," he said.

Though this species is not endangered, many bat species are important for controlling insects or pollinating plants, said Chris Baez, owner of Ace Services of Northwest Louisiana. So he says pest control companies don't like to evict bats while they are raising babies.

"It's a matter of good stewardship," he said.

Baez said the bat maternity season in northwest Louisiana will be over July 15.

The bats' mouse-size bodies can squeeze through openings just one-quarter of an inch across, Baez said. The only opening he's found so far at the police station is about 4 inches, but he'll be sending out a crew with night-vision equipment to make sure the bats don't have other entries.

The colony probably started with a bat or two.

A bat that finds a spot it likes will mark it with urine. "Other bats smell it. They say, 'Hey, what's this?' Then you've got 40 or 50, and it becomes a magnet for other bats," Baez said.

He said this colony could include anywhere from 50 or so to several hundred bats.

Clearing them out should be easy: Attach one-way exits to the holes through which they get in and out of a building. Once they've all departed, seal the openings.

"If you vent them out now you'll leave the babies behind," Baez said.

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