Thousands of bats removed from Church Street house

Published 5:22 pm Friday, July 13, 2012

One vacant house in the Greenville community would have made for a prime filming location for the summer blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The house shares very little in common with Wayne Manor at first glance, but its recent residents served as inspiration for the Caped Crusader — thousands of bats had made the place their new home.

Ann Judah, co-owner of Camellia City Bakery, lives in the vicinity of the house, which is located on Church Street, and she was the first to bring news of the bats to the City of Greenville’s attention.

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Most of the credit, she says, goes to her nose.

“I kept smelling this bad odor,” Judah said. “You could walk out on our back deck and you couldn’t even sit out there. It was just a horrible smell.”

Despite the smell, which would come and go at times, it was the visual confirmation that sparked her to take action.

As the sun began to set one evening, she was standing out in her driveway where her eyes confirmed something her nose had already told her — the empty house wasn’t so empty any more.

“At the very top of a little opening near the roof, all of a sudden, it looked like a stream of black water gushing out of the house,” Judah said.

The steadily pouring swarm of bats was so thick that it didn’t immediately occur to her that it was composed of individual creatures.

Although she wasn’t particularly worried about the dangers the bats could potentially present, she had her grandchildren (and her dog) to think about.

“I was worried about my grandbabies, and we didn’t want them getting hurt,” she said.

After speaking with the health department as well as the City of Greenville’s building department, a Birmingham-based company was eventually hired to remove the bats from the house.

Since federal and state laws protect bats, it is generally illegal to kill them.

The only option left was to take the bats at least 125 miles away from the source and set them free into the wild. Otherwise, they would eventually find their way back to the same house.

The bat specialist used a specific bat trap to contain the creatures. He sprayed a foamy substance and then attached a large net to the bottom of the contraption.

These bat traps were then placed around key points on the house’s exterior.

An estimated 2,500 bats were removed from the house on the first day alone using this method, and the process continued for several more days with no signs of slowing down.

“Every day, for over a week, those nets were full,” Judah said.

Finally, this past Monday, the problem seemed to be under control.

Mayor Dexter McLendon also made a few visits to the house, and said that he’s glad the issue finally seems to be resolved.

“Once it came to our attention, we alerted the correct people and they did what they were supposed to do,” he said. “Of course, we’ll be keeping an eye on the house to see if anything else happens.”

He was also very surprised that something like this had happened in the first place.

“I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this in my life, and I imagine few have” he said.