By Mannix Porterfield
Bats are occupying a few bridges along the West Virginia Turnpike, prompting work delays until federal authorities are satisfied no harm comes to the mammals.
Concerns heightened after an Indiana bat, tagged an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was detected in the crowd, consulting engineer Randy Epperly told the West Virginia Parkways Authority during Thursday’s meeting.
“So, that requires special attention, and we have been working very closely with the staff from the Division of Highways in dealing with bats,” Epperly told the Turnpike’s governing board.
Bats moved into spaces beneath five spans around Milepost 53, along Paint Creek, he told board member Victor Grigoraci.
“The bats have been there all winter, for two to three winters, which is unusual that they would stay out in the open like that, but they’ve been there,” Epperly told the board.
To resume maintenance work needed on the abutment, Epperly said he had a contractor come in and enclose the area.
“The area is sealed off,” he said.
“When the weather warms up to where we can do repairs, we can go into the enclosed area and do the work without endangering the bats. We had to get approval to do that.”
Under one bridge, he noted, as many as 100 of the winged creatures have taken up residence.
Turnpike Manager Greg Barr emphasized that nets are no solution, “because the bats can squeeze through tiny, little spots.”
“If you put up a net, and one of those Indiana bats got stuck in the net and died, that’s a major event,” Barr said.
“That’s a ‘take.’ Basically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife will shut you down. You don’t want to have anything you do that kills one of those endangered species. We’re doing everything we can to protect this endangered species. It’s a very involved process and slows things down a bit.”
In other business, the authority approved the purchase of an additional mini-hydraulic excavator for $38,282 from Bobcat of Advantage Valley in Cross Lanes and canopy gutters for the Bluestone, Beckley and Morton travel plazas from Harris Brothers Roofing & Sheet Metal of Charleston at a cost of $61,245.
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