Austin, Texas, – also known as “Bat City” – may soon hire a chiropterologist, or bat biologist to be able to provide expertise on ways to manage the various bat populations across the city.
Members of the city’s Animal Advisory Commission held a brief discussion on the matter on Monday, with Paige Nelson, one of the commission’s members, saying the new position would be a “huge” value to Austin.
“Austin is blessed with the largest urban bat population in North American,” Nelson said, adding she believed the community would benefit from having a bat biologist.
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According to Texas.gov, the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world, with an estimated 1.5 million bats. The bats began living under the bridge in the early 1980s. It’s a maternity colony where female Mexican free-tailed bats give birth and raise about 750,000 new pups every year.
The bats are a major local attraction. Between the March and early Fall, the bats leave their home under the bridge each night around dusk and fly off away from the sunset. Locals and visitors gather and picnic at the bridge before sunset, listening to the bats and then watching them as they fly away over Lady Bird Lake in the waning light. The bats eat bugs by the millions all night and return to their roost by dawn.
Craig Nazor told the commission that contracting a chiropterologist may be difficult as the position is not too common.
He recommended the commission offer a full-time position to a young student studying chiropterology who may see the job and think, “wow, what an amazing job. I can actually make a living doing this.”
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Nazor also said it was important to bring in a full-time person because the tricolored bat could become endangered in Texas soon, adding when Texas declares an animal endangered, it must be serious.
Tricolored bats, he explained, live in the caves in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. The city used to fill the caves with trash, but the director at the preserve is removing the trash and the tricolored bats are moving into the caves.
Ultimately, the commission unanimously agreed that hiring for a full-time position would be better than contracting the role out.
The commission said the next step is for the City Council to put the item on the agenda for a vote.
Meanwhile, Austin is still struggling with a booming homeless population and a demoralized police force that the city council gutted in 2020. The state legislature forced Austin to restore the lost funding, but APD has suffered a steady drain of police officers ever since.
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