The spa in the aquatics area of the Ehrnfelt Recreation Center is currently closed until further notice. The reason for the extended closure is out of a science fiction movie and one that actors Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, George Clooney, and even Adam West, could appreciate.
The reason for the spa closure is due to a bat invasion. Yes, the nocturnal mammals with webbed wings that have become known in popular culture for the series of Batman movies and 1960s television show have shown up at the Ehrnfelt Center.
The collapse of a portion of the drywall ceiling above the spa on Jan. 11 was the beginning of the attraction for the bats, according to Bryan Bogre, director of parks, recreation and senior services.
“After it fell down an employee saw a bat on the wall,” Bogre said. “We called in an exterminator specializing in bats who got up in there and saw bat droppings throughout that paddock area. He didn’t see any bats, but said since there were bat droppings that there were bats. Usually where there is one bat there are a bunch of them.”
The bats had, in all likelihood, burrowed into the insulation because they are currently in hibernation mode. The one that was seen on the wall probably felt the warm air and thought it was the time of year to awaken.
City of Strongsville Animal Warden Mike Roth removed the one bat that was clinging to the wall and placed it outside.
The species of bat that was located at the Ehrnfelt Recreation Center was the big brown, which is larger in size to a number of other breeds. Big brown bats hibernate during the winter months, while small brown bats head south for the winter. Big brown bats can fly 40 miles per hour and have few predators.
Big brown bats have teeth typical of an insectivore. They are all relatively sharp, including the molars, and have prominent canines to grasp hard-bodied insects in flight.
The big brown bat is one of 13 bat species recorded in Ohio. It is likely the second most abundant species in the state next to the little brown bat.
Big brown bats are found to be the most rabies positive bats in the state of Ohio. However, this translates into only six to 25 positive animals per year out of the hundreds that are tested, and no Ohioan has ever contracted rabies from a bat, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Big brown bats can have an 11-13 inch wingspan, although the wingspan of the one that was removed was 7 or 8 inches.
Manmade structures are readily used by the big brown bat for hibernation, as well as for maternity colonies. How many bats are currently in the insulation?
“It could be one, it could be hundreds,” Roth said. “You don’t know unless you really survey up there looking around.”
The area where the ceiling collapsed will remain sealed off until March or April when insects start coming out and the insectivore bats become active. At that point, a company will place netting over the area designed to allow the bats to fly out, but will prohibit the flying mammals from returning inside.
The area where the ceiling fell is sealed off at the present time. The hope is to be able to open the spa some time in late February. Fixing the ceiling cannot occur until the bats are gone in the spring.
“Once the bats fly out, which will happen over a few nights, we can start the phase of trying to figure out what caused the drywall to fall down. I’m not happy about it. If it wasn’t for the bats we would have had it fixed by now,” Bogre said. “It’s a simple fix to remove the bats. You don’t kill them and they relocate themselves.”
If there is a positive to the bat invasion it is that repairs to the spa can take place since it is closed.
“It’s good timing because there are a few things we’ve been able to fix. We were going to wait until August when the aquatics center is closed for our annual shutdown,” Bogre said. “Thankfully the one bat did come in because if it hadn’t we were going to have a construction company go in and do the demolition. The bats would have felt the warm air in the aquatics center and they would have been flying all around. One of the construction workers could have gotten bit.”
The cost of repairs cannot be determined until the bats are gone and crews can investigate the area where the drywall fell.
Roth said dealing with bats is not that unusual in his line of work, but having to remove one or more in an area like the spa at the recreation center is a bit out of the ordinary.
“The only reason that one bat came down is because part of that ceiling fell and the warm air is going up there,” he said. “They’re starting to wake up a little bit. They’ll fly out, but then they’ll fly back in until they make the repairs.”
One of the possibilities for the point of origination for the winged mammals is that of the bat houses in the woods of the Backyard Preserve behind the Ehrnfelt Recreation Center.