SAEGERTOWN — Ever since Saegertown Borough Council President Chuck Lawrence started lobbying for the town to adopt a unique way to prevent the spread of West Nile virus — building a “bat condominium” — he’s been razzed by his fellow council members.

Councilmen wanted to know how much tenants would be charged and Lawrence could envision the headlines in The Meadville Tribune like “Council president goes batty.”

But the project is no joke and council members can’t really tease La-wrence any longer because th-ey all agreed to earmark $5,000 in next year’s budget to build an 8-by-8-by-8-foot condo capable of housing 5,000 bats.

The condo is a practical solution to a real health problem. While no human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Crawford County, the virus has been detected in animals here the past four years and in 2002 two birds were found with the virus in Woodcock Township, which is right next to Saegertown.

Saegertown also has two county homes housing senior populations, who are the most susceptible to virus along with children.

The virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, and bats love mosquitoes. One little brown bat can gobble up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, or 25 percent of its body weight in a single feeding, according to Bat Conservation Internation-al. In addition, only two bat species have been found to be infected with the virus, and like most other mammals, bats can’t transmit the virus.

“I don’t know if it’s going to fly,” said Lawrence, adding that if they have time, borough employees will build the condo this winter following Pennsyl-vania Game Commission recommendations. He said that he expects the county to continue spraying to kill mosquito larvae in the area.

The house would be placed on the back of borough property, where the borough building sits, and would be near forestlands and French Creek. The condo would be similar to the one currently used at Pymatun-ing State Park.

It would be for maternity colonies, primarily female little brown and big brown bats and their young, retired Game Commission biologist Jerry Hassinger writes on the commission’s Web site. Adult male and other species prefer trees.

Hassinger continues that in April or May, female bats return to the neighborhood after spending the winter hibernating in a cave or mine. In spring and summer, they are attracted to the hotter parts of buildings — usually an attic or the under-roof of an outbuilding — to birth and nurse their young, who are ready to fly by mid- to late July. Females and juveniles then begin to leave their summer quarters in August.



Eric Reinagel can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at ereinagel@meadvilletribune.com

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