SPARTA, Wis. - In a secluded field just outside Sparta, Wisconsin...sits this abandoned house with a very big problem. Luckily, winding down the long, narrow pathway, is the man who's here to fix it. "I'm Mike Bakke, Wisconsin Bat specialist. I've been bat proofing houses since 1979.
Meet our very own...BATMAN!
"Just about anything that needs bats taken care of it's something that we do."
And when he says anything - he means ANYTHING. "We're right in the heart of big bat colonies here."
On this day, Mike's tackling one of the biggest jobs he's ever seen. "Each call comes with a phone call and a homeowners description of what it is. This one the homeowner said he thinks there's a thousand."
A thousand bats. This should be interesting...
"This is the door that leads to the attic. You can see on the stairway going up there's inches of bat guano."
Bakke and his team of conservationists are passionate about the safe handling of bats. "Bats get bad press. Blind as a bat. It's really not true...all bats can see. Bats get tangle in your hair. Not in my case."
"The walls are all stained because the bats have been living in the walls."
After Mike figures out just how bad this problem is, he'll work to patch up all the areas in the house where the bats are getting in. However, he will leave a few openings where a piece of equipment called an excluder will be installed. "The excluder is a one way door. That will allow the bats to get out naturally at night. The door will open around each bat. When they are done feeding, they won't be able to get back in. They look over every little nook and cranny. They're the ones checking our work and if we miss something, they're gonna get back in."
"You can hear them running across the ceiling." Somewhere hidden in the walls of this house is a huge cluster of bats, but so far we've only found a few. "That's a male brown bat...one of the 8 types of bats we have in Wisconsin. Many times this time of year a house will get a single bat in it. They've never had it before. Usually that's a male that's getting chased out of the house they were in just looking for a new roost during maternal season."
"Oh here's a nice cluster of bats..."
"I wasn't so easy with the bats when I first got up there face to face," says Mike's nephew and co-worker Brian Gambero. "When you work with someone like Mike, you learn on a day to day basis on the things around you. Learning about them you kind of come over your fear and they're actually kind of cute."
We were just about to leave the site, not convinced of a thousand bats, when we decided to look in one final spot.
"The whole thing is just filled." "Look at that baby hanging...is that so cool?" "This is as cool as it gets. These guys work the nightshift. Bigtime." "Imagine every one of those guys eats their body weight in the evening..."
"They say I'll do anything to save a bat or fix a house so it doesn't have bats. That's what we do."
It's a good reminder for all of us that bats are vital to our environment. They each eat 25 hundred bugs a night!
In case you're wondering about the house featured in our story, the person who hired Mike inherited the property which hadn't been lived in for several years. He plans to tear everything down to the foundation and rebuild and what will be a bat free home!
If you have a bat problem and would like to contact Mike, call (608) 781-8411 or check him out on the web at www.batcon.org.