Save the Bats

Demolitions in Cedar Rapids, Iowa leaving bats in the light

Postby Ajai » Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:08 am

I recently wrote my Mayor and City Council about the bats that live in the house next door to me.

Here is the letter I wrote with the help of a bat expert in Burlington, Iowa named Vera Blevins with Bat World :

Mayor and City Council:

Did you know that bats live 30-33 years? After learning more about our native bats I have a major problem with the demolition of 1422 1st Street NW in Cedar Rapids. This place is home to a nursery colony of over 200 bats. As a neighbor, my children and I have watched these bats emerge nightly every summer for many years and I am incredibly concerned for their well being.

I have spoken with several bat experts who said that they recommend the house wait to be torn down until September. In addition to waiting I would like to ask that the city consider putting bat houses put up for these bats before anymore houses are taken down. I would like the city to wait until breeding season is over before tearing this house down.


Human fear and habitat loss have driven declining bat populations to alarming numbers. It has put over half of the nearly fifty species of bats in the US either on or in the candidate list of endangered species. Bats, for their size are one of the slowest reproducing mammals on earth. Most have only one pup a year, which sets the regeneration of their species at a very slow pace. Waiting for the bats to leave and before hibernation previous to demolition would be the ideal solution. However, if this kind of schedule cannot be arranged, the best resolution for the city is waiting until September and doing an after dusk demolition. This would give the bats the greatest chance for survival and reduce the odds that of contact between bats and humans. This is the safest solution for everyone.

“It is not recommended by Bat Conservation International, Bat World Sanctuary or any other bat conservation institution that interference of roosts by exclusion, demolition or any other means is done during the months of June, July, and August.”

Furthermore “this is the time of year when the young are born. Bat young are helpless and unflighted and need the nursery colony during this time for protection and survival. If the roost is destroyed, the young have no way of escaping their dilemma.” “If the job is done during the day, the moms face the same death, as they sleep beside their pups and many of the bats who try to take flight and escape may be injured and become grounded. This poses even a greater public safety issue with the possibility of human contact.” I have seen bats crawling to safety after a demolition. I know they do not simply get up and ‘fly away’ as the flood director stated they would in the interview with KGAN. I would also recommend that the health department not be the handlers of the bats. I have been contacted by a local bat expert who has agreed he would do the removal and build bat houses for the bats. I think that it is time we do something right and allow a local bat expert to do what a bat expert does and that is save bats!

There is a solution to this problem and that is to wait until September to demolish this house! I have learned that I have a greater chance of being exposed to rabies by a raccoon than I do a bat! Tolerance and patience is the key here. This solution will help put the city in a positive spotlight with their constituents. This situation can be used in a constructive manner. It can be used to educate the public about the importance of bats in our ecosystem. Bats are the number one predator of night flying insects, the kind that destroy our crops and gardens and consume insects that spread disease. Without the bats, our dependence on toxic chemicals will be even greater. The impact of this demolition would be felt for generations to come!

Every colony of bats is important. On behalf of the bats, I would ask that the city administrators take a deeper look into this situation and call for the delay of demolition at 1422 1st. Street NW in Cedar Rapids or any other potential colony until after the end of August and to see to it that these demolitions are done after dusk. The bats will not be roosting in the building during these times. In doing so, you will offer a win win solution for both people and bats.

Thank you,
Beverly M. Dittmar aka Ajai
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Please help us save our native bats! Write our city council today

and tell them to wait to demolish this house! Make certain you get a receipt for your email from the city! If you write and don’t get a receipt please write me and let me know!

I have had support from Vera Blevins from Bat World Heartland and this is what she wrote:

TO: Jeff Reinhard, Field Operations Manager Family Environmental Compliance Services /Site Clearing Services   AND TO: Cedar Rapids city officials
Hi Jeff,   I made the trip to Cedar Rapids yesterday (Sunday) to help with the bat exclusion process at 1422 First St. NW in preparation to save any bats still using the structure.  The completion of this exclusion will be done today prior to demolition scheduled for Tuesday AM, Sept. 21.   After seeing the historic neighborhood and wonderful natural habitat it embraces and hearing about the city’s future plans  to make this area a green space, I would like to offer a proposal to the city to delay the demolition of this house yet again so the city might take into consideration the value it holds as part of the city’s future economic and conservation plans.   We are so thankful for your cooperation in allowing the first demolition delay of this structure that is home to a large nursery colony of Iowa’s protected Little Brown Bats.  This first delay was pertinent to the future of this colony by saving the lives of the still unflighted pups and their moms.   Bats are very loyal to their birth place. By allowing  this structure to stand, it will provide them continued safe refuge and lessen the potential of them having to find new habitat in other human dwellings next spring.   Once considered the most common bat in North America, the Little Brown Bat populations are dwindling at an alarming rate. Loss of habitat is a major factor causing this fast decline.  They now face an even greater threat with the outbreak of a disease known as White Nose Syndrome that has devastated most of the eastern US cave bats and have reduced their populations as much as 95% within a four year period.  Scientists are now saying unless it can be stopped, there will be regional extinction of not only the already endangered species of bats, but also of the Little Brown Bat.  To date this killer fungus of bats (not humans) has now been found in Missouri and Oklahoma.   Bats play a vital part in keeping a healthy ecosystem.  Stopping this catastrophic disaster can only be happen if every community embraces the importance of protecting our number one defender of night flying insects.  Without the bats, insects will become an even greater risk to our world.   Please postpone once again, at least until further study and consideration can be done to incorporate  this bat conservation effort as part of your future green space plans, the demolition of the structure at 1422 First Street NW. Embracing the efforts to save our natural treasures together with saving communities in which they abide will put your city in the spotlight of grass roots efforts in rebuilding and reviving existing spaces.   PLEASE NOTE: IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TO THIS REQUEST IS NECESSARY.  THE DEMOLITION OF THIS STRUCTURE IS SCHEDULED FOR TOMORROW AM.    Thank you for your consideration to save the bats.


Vera Blevins,

Director Bat World Heartland 2209 Bellevue Ave. Bettendorf, IA 52722 563-355-7831

A satellite of Bat World Sanctuary Mineral Wells, TX

Here is what Jeff, from Family Environmental wrote back to Vera:


As we are coming up against mandatory FEMA deadlines for completion in the NW quadrant for our current demolition contract we don’t have the flexibility in our schedule to further delay this demolition.  We are sensitive to all conservation efforts and certainly are trying to make every attempt to preserve the bat colony that resides at 1422 1st St NW….I have received permission to demolish this address outside the normal allowable working hours of 7:00-5:30.  We will start demolition of 1422 1st St NW at 6 AM tomorrow morning while any remaining bats in this house are still out for the night.   Does your group have everything out of this address?  Please let me know at your convenience and I want to thank you again for all your assistance with this matter.

Regards,     Jeff Reinhard – Field Operations Manager 816.918.8782

Family Environmental Compliance Services/Site Clearing Services “Innovative Solutions for Environmental Problems” 329 10th Ave SE Suite 112 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401 Cedar Rapids Office: 319.533.0797 Denver Office: 303.296.6022 Kansas City Office: 816.527.0101

Here are the stories on KGAN

August 18, 2010 Update on this story:

Here is the law protecting the bats in Iowa Code:

         Protected nongame species include wild fish, wild birds, wild
bats, wild reptiles, and wild amphibians, an egg, a nest, a dead body
or part of a dead body, and a product made from part of a body of a
wild fish, wild bird, wild bat, wild reptile, or wild amphibian.
However, nongame does not include game, fish that may be taken
pursuant to regulations established under the Code or departmental
rule, fur-bearing animals, turtles, or frogs, as defined in this
chapter.  The commission shall designate by rule those species of
nongame which by their abundance or habits are declared a nuisance,
     and these species shall not be protected.  Rules adopted shall
include, but are not limited to, a provision that states that any
bat, except for the Indiana bat, which is found within a building
that is occupied by human beings is not a protected nongame species.

Section History: Early Form

[S13, § 2563-q; C24, 27, 31, § 1776; C39, § 1794.005; C46, 50,
  54, 58, 62, 66, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, § 109.42] 

Section History: Recent Form

 83 Acts, ch 168, § 6; 92 Acts, ch 1107, § 1
   C93, § 481A.42
93 Acts, ch 20, §1
Referred to in § 717B.1
Nuisances in general, chapter 657

I guess the law doesn't apply because this is a house- even though the house was not occupied!
Rob Hogg:

Ajai –

Thank you for sharing this with me.  And thank you for sharing the citation to Iowa Code 481A.42.  Passing and amending Code sections is something that state legislators do (or try to do) depending on the support of their colleagues and the Governor.

The Code section you cite was amended in 1992 under Terry Branstad to specifically exclude bats from protection.  Here is the language that was added:  “Rules adopted shall include . . . a provision that states that any bat, except for the Indiana bat, which is found within a building that is occupied by human beings is not a protected nongame species.”  In other words, Branstad signed into law a bill that, as I read it, prohibits the City of Cedar Rapids from protecting bats in a building used for human occupation.  That is something I will try to look into for the 2011 legislative session that begins in January.

If you want to follow up on this further, you could try contacting David Sheridan, Assistant Attorney General for Environmental Law, at 515-281-5351.  Or you can try to email him at

Thanks again.


1422 1st Street NW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is a home to Native Iowa Bats and has been for a number of years.  Since the flood of 2008 many of our 100+ year old homes have been demolished and groves of bats have adopted this house.  I could literally hear them moving around as I stood outside of the house in July. I took video of the bats exiting the house over the summer.  The Cedar Rapids Police and Zinser Demolition have no regard for the law 481A.42 that protects this wildlife in an UNOCCUPIED dwelling.  The ‘nuisances’ the City of Cedar Rapids used to declare these houses ’eminent threats’ were not bats!

Then there is the matter of the “White Nose Syndrome” threatening the bats’ existence. We need these bats to control the bugs in our city.
I propose the following solutions:
A) as a resident of this neighborhood I would like to see this house spared from demolition.
B)In addition to it being saved from demolition I would like to see this house turned into a “Bat Education Center”.
C) In the book “America’s Neighborhood Bats” by Merlin D. Tuttle on page 9 last paragraph, Mr. Tuttle states “Typically, bats are very loyal to their birthplaces and hibernating sites, but how they find their way over the long distances that often exist between their hibernating and feeding areas remains largely a mystery.”

The story I did with KGAN after calling police and asking the demolition company to stop!

Story Nate did with the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

CEDAR RAPIDS (AP) — Young bats living in an abandoned flood-damaged home in Cedar Rapids have won a reprieve.

The house was scheduled for demolition, but those plans have been put on hold until the bats are old enough to fly on their own,said John Riggs, assistant manager of Cedar Rapids Code Enforcement.

Some small brown bats in the colony are too young to fly by themselves and would not survive any demolition work.

Indian Creek Nature Center Director Rich Patterson said waiting is the best strategy to ensure the safety of the younger bats.

“I would think they’re getting to the independent stage by now,” Patterson said. “They either have or very soon will be migrating.”

A local bat lover is still concerned that some bats might get trapped in the demolition. Nathan Krejci would like to see bat excluders installed over the entrances to the house to allow the bats to leave the roost, but not return.

“An excluder can be as simple as polyethylene bird netting and some duct tape over the windows,” Krejci said. “The bat lands on the netting and can’t get inside.”

Krejci believes the house in northwest Cedar Rapids is one of many flood-damaged homes in town that have become attractive sites for matriarchal bat colonies to raise their young during the summer months. He worries that if alternate shelter isn’t provided, the bats will move on to other occupied homes when they lose their current roosts.

“I’m trying to work with the city to get a bat house program working, so when the houses are demolished they have a place to go rather than into another flood house or an occupied house,” Krejci said.

Bats are in more danger than ever across the country due to an outbreak of a fungal infection called white-nose syndrome that has devastated bat populations in the Northeast U.S.

Although there have been no recorded cases in Iowa, Patterson said it is only a matter of time before the disease reaches local populations.

Recently the Iowa State Department of Natural Resources closed the caves at Maquoketa Caves State Park in order to pre-emptively prevent transmission of the disease to bats there.

Other stories on the bats in the flood zone:

Bat Facts:

And finally the bat forum!

More to come on this story!


About Ajai Dittmar

There is nothing 'radical' about wanting to save your historical neighborhood! There is nothing 'negative' for wanting an 'outside investigation' done a public service that has had a lot of embarrassing news, especially when they don't do their jobs! There is nothing 'odd' about wanting politicians to uphold the Constitution they swear to uphold when they are sworn into office! Follow @sibzianna View all posts by Ajai Dittmar

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