Bats continue tradition of East Hall occupancy
They aren’t early Halloween decorations. They are real bats flying about East Hall.
Each year, several bats move into the residence hall, spurring excitement and anxiety among the students who encounter their winged neighbors.
Senior Stephanie Thielbar, the second floor Viking Advisor in East Hall, has seen four bats already this year.
“I saw two right after I was walking out to go to the bathroom,” Thielbar said. “One just swooped right by my face. So that kind of sucked, especially when you are like, ‘I just have to go the bathroom,’ and then some bat flies past your face. Then the next day, the same thing happened. They kind of just fly around.”
The presence of bats in East Hall has been a reccurring problem since the building was built in 1905. As autumn approaches and the weather grows colder, the bats seek warmth and shelter in the historic building. Cracks, holes and crevices in the siding and window panes found in older buildings like East attract bats.
Because bats can fit into holes as small as the size of a quarter, “bat-proofing” a building such as East has proven difficult for Campus Safety. Although Campus Safety seals all potential entrance points, bats still manage to squeeze inside.
The bats have been spotted in hallways, lobby areas and, on a few occasions, in living spaces. When students see bats, they call Campus Safety.
“Officers have responded to calls of bats,” said Rick Tupper, director of Campus Safety. “Currently Sioux Falls Animal Control will not respond to a report of a bat in a building. They rely on us to find a way to remove the bat. Bats are also protected, so they cannot be harmed or killed when removing them.”
Security uses several methods to remove the bats. Resting on top of a vending machine in the entrance of East Hall is a small black box with two speakers which emit a continuous whirring noise. The machine’s sound frequencies disrupt the bats’ ability to communicate and feed, which, in turn, creates an undesirable environment for the bats. Security has also placed inaudible bat-repelling plug-ins throughout the hallways of the building.
Some employees capture and release the bats as an alternative tactic. Dan Cordie, East Hall’s groundskeeper, captured and released two bats in the past year.
“When I see one, that’s my first mission,” Cordie said. “I drop everything, and it’s time to capture it. I captured one [in the lounge] last spring. If that camera system was there, it would have seen something pretty comical, because that bat was flying back and forth in the lounge. The bat was staying low, thankfully, so I had a bag and I was trying to capture it. It took me a while, but I was jumping up and down and finally I got it. I brought it outside so it could fly away.”
The most prominent health concern associated with bats is histoplasmosis, a dangerous fungus that can be found in environments with bat droppings. When people inhale the fungus’ spores, they can develop a sickness similar to pneumonia.
“We are always looking at any potential health or safety issue that may be increased due to the presence of bats,” Tupper said. “Bats have been labeled as having carried rabies; however, no bats with rabies have ever been found on our campus or, to my knowledge, in the area.”
Besides startling students who encounter them, the bats have not created any large disturbances. Students feel that the bats are not a pressing issue. East Hall resident Britt Jacobsen has seen two bats this year.
“It is more of a funny thing to students, but, at the same time, I don’t know if it should be funny,” she said. “Being that it’s a housing establishment and we’re paying to be in these dorms, I feel like it is important. Obviously, it’s not that big of a deal. But at the same time, they carry diseases. I think that if it is a bigger issue or if there is a way to fix it, that would be good.”
While no single solution for removing the bats has been discovered, Nicolas Steilen, East Hall’s director, said, “Students can help by keeping their window screens in place, submitting work orders for windows or screens that need repairs and contacting Campus Safety right away if they do see a bat in the building.”
Until then, the tiny bat colony will remain some of East Hall’s most loyal tenants.