Marana In The Media: Bat Boxes

Courtesy: Sundt Construction

Courtesy: Sundt Construction

One major part of the Ina Interchange Project is the building of two new bridges over the Santa Cruz River. When complete, Ina Road will expand to four lanes and there will be a number of improvements both on the roadway, as well as to the Loop which runs under the bridges.

 The current bridge is also home to hundreds of Mexican bats. The bats are very important to the local ecosystem, most notably in keeping area insect populations under control.

 The Arizona Daily Star has an article on how the contractors and Arizona Game and Fish ecologist are working hard to relocate the bats from the old bridge to the new ones.

Beneath the old Ina bridge over the Santa Cruz River, which will be replaced by a pair of two-lane bridges, you can hear the high-pitched squeaks of the migratory Mexican free-tailed bat before getting a whiff of their roosts’ distinctive smell.

Though it’s the low season, Arizona Game and Fish bat ecologist Joel Diamond told the Road Runner that there’s an estimated 1,000 of the creatures packed tightly into the crevices. At high season, as many as 25,000 call the soon-to-be-destroyed structure home, while a nearby tunnel also hosts roughly 10,000 cave myotis bats.

So, where are the bats going to go when the place they’ve called a seasonal home for years comes tumbling down?

If things go according to plan, they’ll be moving right next door, into bat boxes installed under the new bridges. Game and Fish crews are sealing up the cracks every night after the bats head out to forage for the evening.

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Sundt Construction is one of the contractors working on the project and they also have a good write-up on their role in the project.

Our work to widen the interstate involves taking down and replacing the Ina Road bridge where Mexican free-tailed bats spend much of the year. It’s their hangout.

Arizona Game and Fish officials estimate about 1,000 bats spend the winter there instead of relocating to Mexico and 25,000 stick around Southern Arizona in the summer. Fortunately, the project team and Arizona Game and Fish Department have devised a plan to make sure the bats aren’t homeless.

The new bridge, which sits next to the old one, has seven bat boxes that replicate the conditions under which the mammals have been living. Each of the boxes has one-inch openings for the bats to crawl into. The boxes provide cooler conditions in the summer and warmer in the winter that bats like.

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