Chehaw’s ‘Casa de Luna’ has vacancies for bats

ALBANY, Ga. — Life may have gotten a little for easier for the Mexican free-tailed bats in Southwest Georgia.

Last week, Chehaw officials announced completion of a deluxe high-rise apartment, especially designed for the winged critters. The only “rent” expected would be the many pounds of mosquitoes and other bothersome insects the bats would eat every night.

Doug Porter, executive director at Chehaw, said the four-foot diameter wooden structure was milled and constructed on-site, then mounted high on a telephone pole near the animal park. The bat house is unofficially referred to as “Casa de Luna,” Porter said, from the popular children’s book about a fictional female fruit bat.

According to Porter, the box was made to the standards of experts and all that can now be done is to wait and “hope they’ll come.” If the free-tails take the invitation, it could eventually be quite a show. Incredibly, the desk-sized house can house as many as 50,000 bats. Porter said that in Austin, Texas, people gather for picnics and watch “literally millions” of bats emerge from beneath a bridge.

“The more the better for out here,” Porter said. “This is an ideal situation for insect control at the park and it’s better than having them roost in someone’s attic.”

The idea of an attic invasion is one of the few negative aspects of bats, Porter said. In fact, bats may have been getting a bad rap for years. Bats aren’t rodents. According to Merlin Tuttle, president of Bat Conservation International. They’re genetically closer to primates. They typically don’t attack anyone and most aren’t vampires. Like most mammals, they can develop rabies, but even then rarely contact humans.

It’s easy to miss the bat house unless you’re looking for it, Porter said. The supporting telephone pole has three guy wires and is on the right, about two thirds of the way into the loop near the animal park. Bats sleep during the day and so “if and when the free-tails come” the best time to see them is at dusk, Porter said, when they’re flying out for dinner.