Why is MnDOT building 'houses' for bats in southeastern Minnesota?


It's not Wayne Manor, but it will have to do.

With their current home – the Interstate 90 bridge in Dresbach, which connects the southeastern tip of Minnesota to Wisconsin over the Mississippi River – soon to be demolished, a thriving colony of bats is moving into some new and hopefully permanent lodging, courtesy of transportation officials.

The so-called "bat houses" – the largest of which is a four-by-four "condo" on stilts – are designed to provide shelter for up to 5,500 of the winged creatures, which is more than enough for the bats who call the I-90 bridge home, the Winona Daily News reports.

The paper says the $20,000 endeavor, which is part of a construction project to replace the 48-year-old bridge with a new one nearby, is a joint effort of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and its Wisconsin counterpart.

So why all this trouble for the little creatures?

For one, this isn't your everyday bat colony. According to the Post Bulletin, most colonies are comprised of just a few hundred bets at best, while the I-90 bats number over 3,000. Their bug-eating activities also make them an important part of the eco-system.

In addition, bat conservation is at a critical juncture due to white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has killed millions of the animals in America since its discovery in 2006, the paper notes.

Bat houses are not a new concept – according to Bat Conservation International, the structures (which resemble birdhouses somewhat) are being used throughout the U.S. and Canada by many of the continent's "crevice-dwelling bat species."

The group says the houses are a "great way" to get involved in the fight against bat habitat loss, which is occurring across the globe.

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