Hiring a full-time bat biologist may be on the table at an upcoming Austin City Council meeting after the Austin Animal Advisory Commission voted to send the recommendation to council members.

At a meeting on March 13, animal advisory commissioners heard a presentation from Craig Nazor about the benefits and challenges of hiring a bat biologist.

After discussing whether to recommend a full-time or contract position, Nazor explained a contract position would likely not work.

"Bat biologists are not very common, and I would suspect there are very few available to contract," Nazor said. "The idea here is to maybe find a student who specializes in this and sees that they can make a living doing this."

The commission agreed with Nazor and decided to keep the recommendation for a full-time hire.

Commissioner Paige Nilson said not only will the bats benefit from hiring a bat biologist, but the people will as well.

"This will be a huge value to the city," Nilson said. "Bats are an extraordinary part of our ecosystem. It is important to have, especially with the shifting populations worldwide and surveillance of fungal diseases affecting bats. We need to make sure our city is optimizing what it can for this important part of our ecosystem."

The recommendation states the city of Austin should hire a qualified, full-time chiropterologist—a bat biologist—to work in the Wildlands Conservation Division of the Austin Water Utility. According to the resolution, this biologist will take on the duties of citywide rabies reports concerning bats, bat conservation, and recommendations for anticipating and solving city problems related to human/bat conflicts.

These duties would include:
  • Restoring the natural bat habitat across the area
  • Monitoring bat populations throughout the area
  • Providing advice on infrastructure design within the transit system and other construction to include or discourage bat habitation
  • Identifying and designing ways to protect bat populations throughout the area
  • Being an education resource for bat conservation
  • Partnering with and advising local bat rescue groups
  • Collecting data on the changes observed in the Mexican free-tailed bat colony under the Congress Avenue bridge to better understand what this colony needs to prosper in an ever-changing urban environment
The next step will be the chair filing a report that will be sent to Austin City Council. From there, council members can put it on an agenda for approval.