Whitehall Scout goes to bat for high-flying winged mammals

A Whitehall Boy Scout received borough council's approval to place bat boxes in several borough parks, including the tennis courts.
A Whitehall Boy Scout received borough council's approval to place bat boxes in several borough parks, including the tennis courts.
| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Steven Evanovich likes those high-flying, sometimes spooky winged mammals for their ability to kill the pesky insects that attack and leave him with itchy bumps and rashes.

“I wore bug spray when I went camping and I still got bit by several mosquitoes,” said Evanovich, 16, of Whitehall. “A lot of people have a misunderstanding about bats. They think they suck your blood. Well, not really, but (people) think they get into your roof and your chimney and they don't like that.”

But, there are benefits to having bats around, like their desire to devour mosquitoes, said Evanovich, who watches bats swoop by his house and above the Whitehall tennis courts at about 10:30 each night.

As part of his Eagle Scout project, Evanovich is seeking to create a safe living space for the regionally declining bat population in several Whitehall parks, he said.

Building plywood framed boxes, 24 inches by 28 inches by 6 inches, with four housing chambers each, as many 100 bats could stay in a given space, he said.

Evanovich approached Whitehall Borough Council with his idea in June. Council members approved the project, with several conditions, in a 5-0 vote, with council members Harold Berkoben and Bill Veith absent.

Evanovich, a member of Baldwin Borough-based Boy Scout Troop 338, plans to work with Whitehall Borough officials to place as many as four boxes each near the Whitehall tennis courts, Prospect Park, Frank Field and Overlook Park.

The areas were selected because bat boxes should be placed on the edge of a wooded area facing south, Evanovich said.

The boxes, which will be built this winter, will be placed on a seven-foot metal pole, to decrease the likelihood that snakes and other creatures can climb the posts, he said. This also should deter vandalism. “Something with bat boxes is, they attract bats and if there's a bat box present, bats will tend to stay out of attics and chimneys and they'll prefer to stay in these bat boxes,” Evanovich said.

The Baldwin High School junior said he plans to send letters to local businesses seeking donations to raise the $50 to $60 needed to build each bat box.

Whitehall Council members quizzed the Boy Scout about his project, asking how long the boxes will last and what type of upkeep they will need.

“It's very low maintenance,” Evanovich said, noting the boxes should last up to six years.

Borough leaders stressed that they want to ensure the boxes meet all municipal codes and questioned how close the bat boxes should be to areas residents frequent.

“I'm just wondering how residents or children using the park area are going to react to seeing a bat,” Councilwoman Kathy DePuy said.

The idea also was intriguing to council members, they said.

“I never knew that existed. That's interesting,” Councilwomen Linda Book said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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