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MnDOT researches technology that combines bridge repairs with protecting the state’s bat population

If they’re not in your attic, they could be hanging under one of the state’s 21,000 bridges.

“The bats like the bridges at the same time of year that we plan to be building our bridges,” said Christopher Smith, MnDOT’s wildlife ecologist.

That’s why Smith recently played a key role in a research project.

“We need to find ways to deter or deter bats from the bridge or bridges when we need to do our projects, and then after the project is done they are more than welcome to come back,” said Smith.

Placing acoustic deterrent devices near bridges that needed repair resulted in bats being deterred by the sound, MnDOT said.

“If we project this sound and interfere with this signal, they look to other places,” said Smith.

When the construction crews finish their work on the bridge, they will completely remove the tech in the hope that the bats will return to the bridges.

“They came back pretty quickly, from the next day until a few days later,” said Smith.

MnDOT explores technologies that combine bridge repairs with protecting the state's bat population | Christopher Smith on KSTP
MnDOT explores technologies that combine bridge repairs with protecting the state’s bat population | Christopher Smith on KSTP

“I think it’s great,” said Naumann.

With the research success, Naumann knows how important this work is.

“Their population has decreased in recent years,” he said.

Naumann also said that bats are vital to the ecosystem.

“They eat thousands upon thousands of mosquitoes in one night, so they’re great around us,” said Naumann.

Without this technology, MnDOT believes that the bat population would suffer.

“If the labor started when the bats were on the bridge and they all have their babies, if they left those babies behind many times then those babies probably wouldn’t survive,” Smith said.

What began as research on a few bridges will be used in selected projects across the state in the near future. Both MnDOT and DNR agree that it’s a win-win situation.

“They are going to make every possible effort to save our species in Minnesota,” said Naumann.

“We care deeply about bats and we want to do our part to protect them,” said Smith.