Colony of bats found in North Texas town

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on November 1, 2011 at 8:31 AM

CLEBURNE - Things are getting festive near the Johnson County Courthouse, but these Halloween decorations are alive.

After the bricks of a building started bulging outward, the fire chief took a look inside and found hundreds of bats crammed inside Garza Plaza, right above a hot dog shop. The bats are expected to remain in town for a few weeks before they fly south for the winter.

Instead of calling an exterminator, Frederico Garza, who owns the hot dog shop, became Batman. He wears a costume similar to his comic book counterpart and markets the "Cleburne Bat Dog."

He made it his mission to save the bats and make sure they return in the spring.

"These bats are going to be treated humanely, like the should be," Garza said. "They're not going to be killed by pesticides or suffocated like [they were] in the building behind me, that illustrates how they do it."

The neighboring building sealed up gaps to rid themselves of the bat problem.

Garza instead called in help from Cleburne High School.

Teacher Jim Lewis and his construction students are ready to build 10 bat houses for their next project.

"Every time we can do something a little bit different, a little out of the norm, the more the kids learn," Lewis said.

There is already one bat box hanging around town. It might be home to some 500 of those insect-eaters. And to keep eyes off the mess below the boxes, local artists want to embellish the new boxes and bring tourists to town.

"I think that you'll be able to take a little tour and see the different buildings and the places that have the bat houses," said artist Cynthia Davis.

Garza still needs a few hundred dollars to get the project started. Supplies for the bat boxes are about $50 apiece. He is taking donations at his shop.

He believes once Cleburne sees what bats can do for business downtown, it won't be so scared of what's hiding in it's walls.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com.

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