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City Protects Bats, but They'll Be Displaced by Repairs

Lesser-known bats of the West Sixth Street Bridge

Ever since we became aware of plans to develop (eventually) the riverfront site that the Austin American-Statesman building occupies, we've wondered what effect such a large disruption might have on our most famous bat colony—the one that emerges from under the Congress Avenue Bridge, basically at the paper's front door, at dusk on summer and spring evenings.

Now we're wondering if the necessary relocation of Austin's also-ran bats, which live under the West Sixth Street Bridge on Shoal Creek, might foreshadow what's to come for the bigger colony when inevitable prolonged construction comes to their neighborhood.

Today the Statesman published a detailed and strangely compelling feature on how workers repairing the latter bridge are taking meticulous care in making sure the bats aren't harmed. Before it started repairs on the historic bridge, the construction team consulted with Bat Conservation International to lay out a protection plan that has proven to be fairly painstaking.

According to the Statesman, bat exclusion (getting them out of their spaces between the old bricks, which date back to 1887) so they can be filled with mortar involves endoscopes, detective work involving oil secretions, and waiting for a week of consistently warm weather.

The Statesman also noted that the precautions added 15 days to the project and $9,000 to the $90,000 construction costs. (Which seems like a pittance, really.)

Also interesting is the fact that the bats being excluded (so they won't be entombed by new mortar) will have to find somewhere else to live, which the article indicates will probably be in other places along Shoal Creek. While that's a good outcome, it still leaves open the question of what the city will do when construction and attention turn to the much larger and very different Congress bridge and surrounds, home of the more famous, tourism-friendly bats—still the largest urban colony in North America.