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Wildlife Biologist Safely Removes Bats From Highland

Lydia Hawes
Students and faculty are warned to stay away from Ms. Myers classroom

The start of the school year yielded something unexpected and rather alarming: a bat infestation in the walls of Highland. Immediately, a pest nuisance control company was contacted to remove the bats, with help from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. District officials contacted Shawn Pladas, a wildlife conservation biologist who has experience working with bats for six years, to oversee the effort. 

He quickly got to work. 

I was contacted directly by the school district to help remove a few initial bats and coordinate removal efforts with a nuisance control company.” Pladas said. “After meeting with district personnel and school staff, areas with known roosting bats were closed off and nearby areas were monitored closely for other bats.”  

After training Highland custodial staff on how to safely remove the bats, Pladas, who works with the most endangered species in Utah, including all 18 native bat species, coordinated with a pest nuisance company permitted by the UDWR in order to remove the colony, which was located above the boiler room in Highland. 

“Custodial staff was trained on bat removal and advised to capture and release any solitary bats found. The roosting group of bats within the school was found in a room on the third floor and a larger group of roosting bats was found outside the school under paneling high above the boiler room.” Pladas said. “Once roosting locations and entry points were identified the nuisance control company removed bats within the school and sealed off entry points leaving one-way exit valves so if any bats remained they could exit the building, but not return. The exterior paneling was also sealed off and a one-way valve was also installed to ensure any remaining bats could exit.” 

These precautions enabled Pladas and the pest nuisance company to remove the majority of bats in one evening, according to KSL.  

Pladas also explained that empty buildings such as Highland attract bats because they mimic caves that bats would naturally form their colonies in. 

“Tall brick walls with crevices or cracks are ideal habitat for bats, mimicking cliffs and crevices these bats would roost in in nature. We have had records of bats roosting in a diversity of schools and facilities where they can find safe roosting areas.” Pladas said. 

The best thing to do is break down misconceptions around bats, according to Pladas. He provided a link to the Wild Aware Utah site on bats, which provided a few of these misconceptions and why they’re wrong. 

“Bats don’t normally attack humans and, contrary to popular belief, they do not purposefully try to land in people’s hair. A bat flying around inside a room may appear to dive at people, but in fact, the diving behavior helps the bat regain its flight speed and control.” Wild Aware Utah said. 

Pladas also said that unless someone is scratched or bitten, there is little to no threat of a transmission of rabies, which only occurs naturally in around six percent of bats. 

Both Pladas and Wild Aware Utah stress that no matter how little the chance that a bat has rabies, do not touch it. 

“If you encounter a bat that appears to be sick or injured (on the ground or out in the middle of the day) contact your local wildlife agency (UDWR) or rehabilitation facility and do not handle the bat without protection.” 

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