Batemans Bay, Australia, is a picturesque coastal town that always leaves the welcome mat out for tourists. But tens of thousands of visitors of another kind have more than outstayed their welcome—large bats. Residents feel trapped in their guano-coated houses, and those who venture outside soon feel a disgusting "sprinkle of something," the AP reports. Then there's the early-morning screeching, so excruciating that Danielle Smith said it compelled her to go on anti-depressants. Her 2-year-old can no longer play in the backyard, and "won't even sleep in his own bed anymore because he's so frightened of the bats," she says. "I can't open my window at all because the smell is so bad," Smith said. "We can actually taste it—that's how strong it is."
The area's population of the gray-headed flying fox, Australia's largest bat, peaked at up to 140,000 in April—nearly three times the number seen there last year. That's about 12 bats for each of the 11,000 human residents of Batemans Bay. Civic leaders agree the stinking, noisy, messy, and potentially diseased bats have got to go. The local council will consider methods of driving them away in the next week. But getting rid of the protected native species, which is listed as vulnerable to extinction because of habitat loss, is no simple task. Some experts warn against even trying. Sydney University bat researcher Kerryn Parry-Jones says attempts to drive bats away with smoke machines, bright ligits, and loud noise usually results in them just splitting into more colonies in the same area. The problem, driven by ecological problems like habitat loss, has been building over 50 years, she says. "And now they want a complete and utter solution within 24 hours."