Pickerington Times-Sun

Eagle Scout's project will help bats re-populate

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Alex Hertl, a third-generation Eagle Scout, has built numerous “batboxes” and plans to build and install more.

Alex Hertl is one determined Pickerington Eagle Scout who is doing his part to stem the rise of a deadly fungus that is killing bats in Ohio.

Hertl proudly received his Eagle Scout Rank at age 13 in February, quite an accomplishment given his age.

Perhaps more impressive is the fact he is a third-generation Eagle Scout.

His father, David Hertl, and grandfather, William Hertl, both received scouting's highest honor as well.

For Alex Hertl to achieve the designation, he had to undertake and complete a large-scale service project that would substantially impact the community.

He chose to help bats, who are susceptible to being decimated by the White Nose Syndrome, a fungus spread among only the bat species. The disease wakes bats early from their hibernation and leaves them vulnerable and weakened and thus prime prey for predators.

"I heard about White Nose when I started researching about bats," said Hertl. "Once the bats get (the disease), they infect the other bats."

He said he chose bats out of respect for their functionality given the species ability to substantially reduce the pesky mosquito population. Studies show one bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour.

"I knew bats help with controlling the mosquito population, and I like 'Batman' too," said Hertl, a member of Pickerington's Troop 256.

After researching the issue and consulting with a wildlife official, Hertl set upon his goal of constructing "bat boxes" to serve as a safe haven for the bats.

"I built two of them and put them in the Walnut Woods Metropark (in Groveport)," Hertl said.

"Each box can hold 200 bats," said Hertl. "This will help the bats re-populate."

Bat boxes also serve as a place for bats to hibernate and raise their young ones, he said.

Building the boxes was no small task. Hertl first had to sell 700 candy bars just to raise the funds for the construction materials.

He then had to build the boxes, a painstaking endeavor which required great attention to detail. Each box contains four chambers, and has to mimic the bat's environment, which calls for each chamber to be very narrow.

Hertl placed each box on poles and installed them in Walnut Woods Metropark to the delight of park staff, who welcomed the new additions.

In all, Hertl completed over 200 service hours for the project and he's not done yet.

"He's still building more boxes," said his mother, Jennifer Hertl.

Hertl said he plans to build eight more and has generated interest about future bat house installations from several Pickerington area homeowners and even the city of Pickerington.

Hertl will be a freshman at Pickerington High School Central. He hopes to work in the technology sector in the future.

"I want to work for Apple," he said.

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