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ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Justice Court has a bat problem. Right now, the courthouse looks more like a set from a Hollywood thriller or Halloween TV special than an orderly government building.
In fact, the bats have decided to make the 5th District courthouse their new home, much to the dismay of the people who work there.
The bats were first noticed Thursday when court employees came to work.
Zac Weiland, a deputy prosecutor from Washington County, said when he walked into court Friday morning he could hear scratching noises.
Bats were in the ceiling, hallways, stairwells and even inside of the courtrooms themselves.
Weiland and all the employees at the courthouse said that it's driving them a little batty.
“I don't like bats. I saw it crawling, and it's stuck in a little lamp, and I'm like, I'm done. I want out."
Bats are frightening creatures to a lot of folks. Hopefully, those individuals didn't have a court date recently.
"It's unusual, there's no doubt about that. This is a first, I think, for the courts,” Nancy Volmer, a spokeswoman for the Utah state courts, said.
And employees hope that its both the first and last time for bat problems.
I don't like bats. I saw it crawling, and it's stuck in a little lamp, and I'm like, I'm done. I want out.
–Zac Weiland,deputy prosecutor from Washington County
Bats or not though, court proceedings have gone on as usual, although one judge moved to a different courtroom because of the ceiling noise.
Exactly why the bats decided to make the $29 million courthouse their new bat cave is unclear. But it may be because of some construction work that allowed them to get in through a vent or other opening.
On Thursday, 30 to 40 bats were removed, and there are perhaps dozens more still inside.
Because bats are protected in Utah, they cannot be killed. Thus the Division of Wildlife Resources will be embarking on a “catch and release” operation over the next few days.
“There is an apparatus put in place, kind of a one-way door where they can get out but can't get back in," Lynn Chamberlain of the Division of Wildlife Resources said.
The hope is to have the bats out when court comes to order on Monday.
Wildlife officials don't believe the bats are harmful or carriers of any diseases.
Contributing: Sara Jarman