Dwelling under the Ina Road bridge above the Santa Cruz River, is a bat population in the midst of being vacated due to an impending demolition.
Arizona Game and Fish and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), in partnership with the town of Marana, have installed seven “bat boxes” underneath the new Ina Road bridge.
The bat boxes, about $6,000 each, are designed to replicate the habitat of the old Ina Road bridge in terms of temperature and structure.
“Bats won't move to somewhere if the temperatures don't match,” said Tim Snow, terrestrial wildlife biologist with Arizona Game and Fish.
"They're encased in this larger concrete box, which really mimics the thermal properties of the old bridge and really makes a nice seamless transition for these bats to move over from their old home into their new one,” said Dan Casmer, ADOT resident engineer.
The bats currently reside in the crevices of the soon-to-be demolished Ina Road bridge.
"It can be anywhere from a few hundred all the way up to 20,000 bats,” Snow said.
But now, it’s time for the bats to move out.
Arizona Game and Fish crews work to seal up the crevices as a way of letting the bats know, "The door is shut and they have to find a new place.”
ADOT and Arizona Game and Fish have discussed at length how the Ina Road construction could impact the bat population.
"Really, we haven't had any effect on their patterns to date,” Casmer said.
"Certainly there's concern whenever -- for wildlife in general when you lose habitat and so we're hopeful that we can create that same lost habitat in these new bridge designs,” Snow said.
Traffic will be moved to the new Ina Road bridge within the next six weeks, Casmer said.
The demolition will follow shortly via a multi-week dismantling process using heavy equipment.