Woman with bats infesting her home still seeks solution

Help could be on the way for Victoria Jackson, the 70-year-old woman whose Cochran home is infested with more than 1,000 bats.

Jackson said two weeks ago that she can’t afford the estimated $10,000 extermination cost.

Since the story first appeared in The Telegraph, a number of people have called offering to help. At the urging of a pest removal company, Jackson moved out of the house last Monday and is now staying with her daughter. But for her, that’s only a temporary fix.

“I need my house back,” she said. “It’s the only thing I own besides my clothes and my children.”

For it to be safe for Jackson to live in again, the bats will have to be removed from the home, said Jacob Polsky, an environmentalist at the Bleckley County Health Department in Cochran.

The amount of money needed to eradicate the bats depends upon a number of factors, primarily whether it would make more financial sense to remove the bats or raze the house altogether.

Trutech Pest and Animal Control of Macon recently visited the home to inspect and assess the infestation. Michael Pope, who manages the company, said the problem was far worse than he ever imagined.

“It’s sad and disheartening, but it’s also disgusting. No one should ever be living in a house like that,” Pope said. “There is bat guano (droppings) on the bed, on the floor and in the kitchen. It is actively flowing out of the walls.”

Pope said he thinks the removal and clean-up process could easily end up costing more than $10,000.

“It’s going to involve removing interior walls and cleaning out the bat guano. But we’d certainly be willing to offer her severely discounted rates, especially if we could have a few volunteers helping us,” Pope said.

Jackson’s house is valued at $21,540, according to information from the Bleckley County tax appraisers office. It is uninsured.

If Jackson decides to demolish the house, it could raise an entirely different set of problems. Bats are a protected species, and destroying such a large roosting spot could be prohibited by law, Pope said.

“It’s slightly possible that it could be deemed a bat sanctuary. I’ve never head of that in Georgia, but I’ve heard of it in other states,” Pope said.

Laura Finn, who runs Fly By Night, a nonprofit bat conservation organization in Osteen, Fla., said she doesn’t think anything should be done until the bat maternity season ends in mid-August.

“Right now, there are babies inside the house. Even if we got the adults out, the babies would be trapped inside,” Finn said. “The family has only been exacerbating the problem by plugging up the holes.”

Finn said that even when the bats are removed from the house, they will likely only go to nearby houses. She recommended building bat houses that will give the creatures another place to live.

But Pope said bat houses wouldn’t be a good solution.

“We’d have to build a bat house the size of a big truck in order to fit all the bats she has in her house,” he said. “And they wouldn’t want to live there. It’d be like trying to make a person live in a tent.”

Construction of bat houses could mean a greater price tag for Jackson, whose efforts to get government grants to eradicate the bats have been rejected.

Last week, the Cochran chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stepped in to head up fundraising efforts for Jackson.

Doris Harris, a NAACP organizer, said she’s set up a fund in Jackson’s name at three Cochran banks –– State Bank of Cochran, Citizens Bank and Citizens Bank & Trust Co.

“This is such an eye-opener,” Harris said. “We all need to come together and help this poor lady out.”

Harris said the NAACP plans to host a gospel sing to raise money for Jackson, but a date for the event has not yet been set.

In the meantime, Jackson said she’s holding out and praying every day she’ll get to move back soon. “Those bats have taken my home as theirs, but it’s not their house,” she said. “It’s mine.”