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Bat City USA is the story of how a giant colony of bats “invaded” an Austin bridge and were met with fear and hostility by residents. When the city threatened to exterminate the bats, a zealous conservationist named Merlin Tuttle stepped in and fought to save them.

Thousands of Mexican Free-tailed bats begin moving into a downtown Austin bridge in the 1980s, after a bridge renovation leaves gaps between beams that create ideal roosting space. The “bat invasion” causes a media hoopla and the sensational headlines attract the attention of Tuttle, a bat researcher in Milwaukee.

Tuttle moves to Austin, where he faces opposition from residents who want to exterminate the colony because of rabies concerns. Tuttle becomes an expert at photographing bats without depicting them as bared-teeth aggressors. He uses his photos to change the bats’ image — from disease-carriers to desirable creatures. Talking up bats to anyone who will listen, he tries to persuade locals of the bats’ benefits to save the colony from destruction.

Bat City USA is a 54-minute documentary. Look for it soon at a nearby festival.

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