At about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Mexican free-tailed bats crawl under the mesh taped over the bats’ entry site under eaves at Apache Middle School. The bats are able to leave but will not be able to re-enter the school.
(Suzanne Cronn•Herald/Review)
Article Online

Bats not allowed to nap inside schoolhouse

By Shar Porier - Herald/Review
Published on Monday, September 24, 2007

SIERRA VISTA — Apache Middle School officials are hopeful that the measures taken Sunday by Desert Wildlife Services Inc. to evict a colony of bats will work and there will be no more bats found in classrooms.

Mike Buckler, maintenance “guru” of Sierra Vista Unified School District, and his crew have spent a lot of time sealing up every crevice that can be found on the exterior of the buildings on campus.

At about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Mexican free-tailed bats crawl under the mesh taped over the bats’ entry site under eaves at Apache Middle School. The bats are able to leave but will not be able to re-enter the school. (Suzanne Cronn•Herald/Review) “They can flatten out their bodies like mice,” he said as he inspected the sealing work done Friday. “I’ve been walking these buildings for the past four days looking for signs of them. We have come at night to look for them and see where they are coming from.”

He came upon one of the most visible signs — bat guano — which showed up like little black pebbles atop the gravel alongside one of the buildings. This was the spot where the bat guys from Tucson would install a special barrier that would let the remaining colony out but not back in when they were done with the nightly feeding frenzy around the school’s lights.

Lights attract insects and, in turn, that tends to attract bats, Buckler explained. He pointed at a bat box that they put back up in the hope that the bats would rather spend their daytime sleeping hours there than crammed into a tiny crack.

But bats won’t necessarily take up residence in such boxes, according to Desert’s bat expert Dave Purwin.

“The problem is many people buy bat boxes from back East. They may not suit the bats here. It all depends on the space between the baffles,” Purwin said. “Each type of bat has different preferences.”

Then there’s the matter of temperature. It gets hot in the sun, and the bats prefer to have a cooler temperature when they sleep, he added.

The problem was first noticed last Thursday when a bunch of bats were found in the drama room in one of the AMS buildings. The classroom was closed off and Sierra Vista Animal Control and Arizona Game and Fish came to lend a hand. Around 60 bats were displaced over the next two days. As was reported Saturday in the Herald/Review, all bats tested were found to be rabies-free, and no children were exposed to the bats.

Purwin and his associate Mike Percy set to work Sunday, sealing up the final crack where Buckler found the remaining bats sleeping. Once they became aware of the men at work, little tails of the Mexican free-tailed bats squiggled down and there was much squeaking and moving about. When the men were finished, there was only one 10-foot section left as an escape route. Purwin and Percy took screen wire and taped it above the crack and down the sides of the wall. The bats are supposed to climb down the wall and fly away freely. If they try to return to the crevice, they won’t be able to slip back up under the screen and crawl back into their temporary home at the school.

“They will fly around and try to go back in the way they have been, and they will find they can’t,” Purwin said. “They’ll give up and look for other accommodations. They are not trapped, harmed or poisoned.”

He emphasized, “We don’t use repellent or anything toxic.”

Bats make up a good portion of Desert Wildlife Services’s business from May until the weather turns cold. That’s when the migratory mammals fly to their winter homes in Mexico.

Two bats remained in the drama room, and it appeared both may have died in place, unable to get back out to fresh air, food and water.

Scratching sounds and squeaks come out of a small box lying on a desk. One of the bats that had been caught by maintenance was inside. It would be sacrificed for another rabies check by the health department just to be sure, Purwin said.

“You just have to be very careful when you’re dealing with kids. It’s better to be safe. So, it will be killed and tested for rabies,” Purwin stated.

Once all the bats are out and all the little crevices that might give them a toehold are sealed, maintenance staff will start cleaning up and sanitizing the drama room, from the ceiling tiles on down.

“We found some tiles that have some droppings on them and urine stains, so those will be replaced,” Buckler said.

“We will inspect all the tiles. No students will be using these classrooms until January, so we have plenty of time to get the room ready.”

Herald/Review reporter Shar Porier can be reached at 515-4692 or by e-mail at shar.porier@bisbeereview.net.

Bats have found a roost at Sierra Vista school

By Cindy Skalsky - Herald/Review
Published on Saturday, September 22, 2007

SIERRA VISTA — “Holy flying mammals, Batman!” might have been the first reaction when a colony of bats was discovered roosting in the fine arts building at Apache Middle School on Thursday morning.

Since then, the critters have captured the attention of, and been captured by, Sierra Vista Animal Control and Arizona Game and Fish Department officers. On Sunday, they will be the focus of bat experts from Desert Wildlife Services, a professional company from Tucson certified by Bat Conservation International.

The state department of health also has been contacted.

“This is not a normal occurrence,” said Tammie Pineda, animal care and control supervisor for the city. “The situation was they called us Thursday, prior to the start of school. There were bats flying around the classroom. We removed 15, then Game and Fish came in later and removed 25.”

Another 21 were removed Friday morning, once again before the school day began.

Pineda said the bats were easily caught with a net, and all tested negative for rabies.

“There’s been no known exposure to children,” she added, “but if any kid has had contact with a bat, we need to know. They should call Animal Control at 458-4151 and choose option 5 on the voice menu.”

School district spokeswoman Donna Avina said it was originally believed 50 or 60 bats were confined to the one large classroom area, but late on Friday district maintenance manager Mike Buckler informed her that more were found roosting in the eaves on the north side of Apache’s cafeteria building but appeared unable to enter.

“There might be as many as several hundred,” she said.

Indeed, the Apache Middle School Web page has a “Bat Alert” posted, telling parents that all classes affected by the colony were moved to a different location so there was “no contact by students to the bats and vice versa” and that the “building should be Bat Free by Monday.”

But maybe not.

Pineda said Desert Wildlife Services will employ the “exclusionary” method of bat removal, excluding them from where they’ve taken up residence and “encourage them to move on.”

Avina described it as similar to installing a doggie door that would permit the bats to fly out but not back in.

“They can flatten themselves and get through tiny little openings,” she said, adding maintenance personnel have already sealed up a number of cracks and openings on the fine arts building.

But a bat control Web site that describes the exclusionary “bat-proofing” method also advises waiting three or four nights and if bats are no longer seen leaving the building, to only then seal the remaining one-way opening. It also states the odor from dead bats is extremely offensive.

Avina said students would not return to the classroom until it had been inspected by the health department and that thus far there have been “surprisingly few” droppings on the floor.

Pineda did not know exactly what species of bat had moved into Apache but was sure it was not an endangered one. “It’s a common brown bat,” she said, and among those caught, “there was no peculiar behavior nor did any of them look ill.”

State laws regulate the removal of bat colonies and normally a permit would be required. But because a school is involved, phone calls to “higher authorities” allowed Desert Wildlife Services to be called in immediately.

Pineda explained that bats migrate through the area this time of year and that Tucson has recently experienced a “surge of bat calls.” She said the vast majority are clear of rabies, “But we want to err on the side of caution.”

The Apache Web page also tells parents that “if you have any concerns, do not hesitate to contact the school office.”

Rabid bobcat attacks Tucson-area hikers

Associated Press
Originally published 02:55 p.m., April 24, 2008
Updated 02:55 p.m., April 24, 2008

TUCSON, Ariz. — A rabid bobcat that attacked a couple hiking in the mountains outside Tucson was killed by the man at the conclusion of the 10-minute confrontation, and the couple is now receiving anti-rabies shots.

Katrina Mangin and Rich Thompson were hiking in the Santa Rita Mountains when they spotted the cat, who stared at them.

“I knew immediately it was a rabid bobcat and we were in trouble,” Thompson said of Saturday’s attack.

He said they tried to get away but the bobcat pursued them, lunging at Mangin, climbing up her legs and wrapping its body around her, clawing and biting.

The couple fought off the bobcat, but it continued attacking, chasing them up the mountain and jumping on Thompson’s back.

“I hit it with the backpack over my shoulder,” he said. The cat fell to the dirt and lunged again. “It attacked me again, and I threw it down.”

Finally, Thompson took out his geologist’s hammer and killed the animal.

“It’s very sad,” Thompson said. “This poor kitty cat was deranged by its disease-riddled brain. I love the native cats. It was terrible to have to kill it.”

The couple are both scientists at the University of Arizona, Thompson a geologist and his wife a marine biologist.

After the attack they drove to a Tucson hospital, where they were given anti-rabies shots and strong antibiotics for their puncture wounds. They returned to retrieve the dead bobcat the next day with Mark Friedberg, wildlife manager with the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

An attack by a rabid animal “is definitely kind of rare,” Friedberg said.

They each received another rabies injection Tuesday and will get three more treatments.

Pima County Health officials last week warned of an increase in rabies cases in the area, with 38 reported near the Pima-Pinal county line as of April 18, officials said. That’s double the number from the same period in 2007.

Coyotes killing pets in Mesa neighborhood

Associated Press - July 24, 2007 9:34 AM ET

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Coyotes have been attacking small pets in a northeast Mesa neighborhood in increasing numbers.

Arizona Game and Fish biologist Randy Babb says at least six cats and dogs were killed by coyotes during the past two weeks near Val Vista Drive and the Red Mountain Freeway.

Some residents in the area have feared the attacks were being carried out by a bobcat or a mountain lion. But Babb says the killings have all the earmarks of a coyote attack.

In one case, he says a resident found his three small dogs dead in his backyard.

Babb says unfortunately, "there's no magic bullet to protect against this." He says pet owners must be more vigilant and watch their pets a lot closer.

Fast fix for coyote sightings unlikely, Game and Fish says

Residents: Acting rude won't solve problem
M.B. Pell: The Arizona Republic
Jul. 5, 2007 12:00 AM

GLENDALE - Those looking for a quick solution to an apparent uptick in coyote sightings are in for disappointment, state Game and Fish Department experts say.

The only way to discourage coyotes from killing pets and other unacceptable behavior is a coordinated community effort of long-term rudeness, Darren Julian, an urban wildlife specialist with Game and Fish, told a gathering of concerned residents last week.

Sun City resident Beverly Chylko said that in the seven years she has lived in the northwest Valley, coyotes have never been as visible or aggressive as in the past two years. She frequently sees them trotting across her neighborhood in the morning, and they do not seem scared of her or other walkers. advertisement

"It's just real scary, because you don't know what they're going to do. And if you see two or three of them, you really don't know what they're going to do," Chylko said.

Throw rocks at coyotes, give them a whiff of pepper spray or chase them with a stick, Julian advised. The most important thing is for residents to menace the animals every time they see one, so the coyotes will associate humans with fear.

Some residents said rude behavior, such as shaking a can filled with coins, is not enough.

"We're going to have this problem until some child gets killed, and then we're going to get mad and do something," Ron Pfeiffer said. "Well, I'm mad now."

Pfeiffer asked why he and his grandchildren should feel unsafe in his backyard.

"You should be able to feel safe in your yard," Julian said, "but here in the desert there are things like scorpions, not just coyotes, that make your yard unsafe."

He said the department will shoot coyotes that display aggressive behavior toward humans. But even if the state mounted a multimillion-dollar campaign to shoot, poison and trap every coyote in the Valley, he added, Game and Fish could not eradicate them.

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