Nocturnal invaders driving Oldsmar officials batty

The Oldsmar Council Chamber building is home to a colony of 300-500 bats.

The Oldsmar Council Chamber building is known for its LEED-certified construction, its historic past and for sharing a space with the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Oldsmar Historical Society.

Unfortunately, the State Street structure also has a bat problem.

According to officials bats have been living in the building’s belfry for more than a decade, and for the second time in recent memory, a plan has been put into place to relocate the nocturnal creatures by using a certified extraction method and a specially designed “bat house.”

“We have bats,” City Manager Al Braithwaite told the council when the agenda item came up Tuesday night. “And we’ve had them for some time.”

Longtime local lawmaker and city historian Jerry Beverland confirmed the bats can be traced back to a bank building that used to be on the property.

“We’ve had bats in Oldsmar forever,” Beverland said, noting this would be the second time the city has utilized a bat house in order to relocate a colony.

“They came from the old Sun Trust Bank…and we had a beautiful, big bat house built by volunteers.”

A specially designed “bat house” similar to these examples will be installed on the Oldsmar Council Chamber property in hopes of relocating a large colony from the rafters of the building. (City of Oldsmar/Fly By Night, Inc.)

While Beverland said the first extraction mission was unsuccessful, officials hope the second time is the charm in this case.

Assistant City Manager Felicia Donnelly explained there are about 300-500 bats currently residing in the southwest corner of the building, and she said they plan to “extract them humanely” by putting a barrier in front of their nesting spots that will cause them to, hopefully, move to the bat house that will be set up nearby.

Oldsmar Assistant City Manager Felicia Donnelly.

“Extraction is the methodology of building a barrier that doesn’t allow the bats to return to their existing location, but it’s important to provide the right facility that’s attractive to them,” she said, noting the city consulted with certified experts at a cost of around $5,000.

Donnelly said the bat house is designed to be attractive to bats based on the design configuration, though she cautioned the entire process comes with no guarantees.

“If it’s unsuccessful, we’ll relocate the bat house to the Cypress Forest Rec Center,” she said.

Naturally, the batty issue elicited a number of stories, and jokes, from the council members.

Gabby McGee pointed out the famous bat bridge in Austin, Texas has become a tourist mecca, and Eric Seidel related a story about the time a bat nearly tore his ear off as he stepped on the front porch of his neighbor’s house.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

And what would a story about bats be without a reference to the Caped Crusader?

“Do we get a cool light like Batman?!” Mayor Doug Bevis asked.

While it doesn’t appear there will be a large spotlight stationed on the roof of the chamber building any time soon, look for the bat house to be installed on the property in the coming weeks.

“We will also be including informative signage to help make the community aware of how important bats are to the environment,” Donnelly said.

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