published Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Maryville College to build new homes for 2,000 bats

MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Officials at Maryville College are working to provide new homes for nearly 2,000 bats that were removed from the belfry of a campus building.

The Daily Times reports the new accommodations should be in place by the time the colony returns in April.

David Unger, assistant professor of biology, said employees at the college have built 10 bat boxes in the campus orchards that can house about 30 bats each and plan to install a bat condo in February that can house thousands of the little mammals.

Meanwhile, crews are continuing with renovations on Anderson Hall, where the bats were found.

"The college is undertaking these efforts in an act of stewardship, leadership and conservation," Unger said. "We can all live together."

The newspaper reports scientific experts were on site to make sure the bats, which are currently hibernating, weren't harmed while they were relocated.

Unger said Maryville College plans to set up benches and allow public access to the area.

"We represent a part of the community that's interested in promoting natural systems and lifelong education," he said. "We want it to be a source of education and recreation."

Merlin Benner, president of Wildlife Specialists, a company that is helping the school determine the best location for the bat condo, says the college has come up with a "very good plan."

"The college is addressing the bats' needs with a structure specifically designed for them," Benner said. "It's a safer, cleaner structure that will benefit the bats and provide great learning opportunities."

Unger said the animals also can serve the students as a "living, breathing teaching tool."

"Many research opportunities are available to the college," he said. "If students get caught up in it, they could do almost anything. I'd love to see these opportunities motivate them to pursue a career in science and work with bats."

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