Hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats in the coming weeks will return to an abandoned Texas Department of Criminal Justice warehouse, their preferred spot to spend the summer.
They will find their usual digs partly demolished.
Workers are focused this week on the northern end of the structure, which state prison officials long wanted to tear down. TDCJ said in a recent statement that the red brick building was “in danger of collapsing.”
It’s the first step toward what will be a total razing of the warehouse — a plan that has drawn concern from environmental advocates and residents watching skeptically as prison officials proceed. More than 750,000 bats live in the cavernous, decaying space during warmer months. No one knows yet how the flying mammals will respond to finding their home damaged, and later gone.
TDCJ in its statement promised only to tear down the rest of the structure later this year after the bats have left for the winter, and experts can make sure it is unoccupied. That will be the critical last step; the bats’ worried fans will likely be watching to be sure they are indeed gone when the bricks begin to fall.
Another concern is where the Hunstville bats will make their new home. Stragglers can stay in the main warehouse for now, but Monday’s demolition made quite a ruckus, as equipment beeped and rumbled and debris tumbled to the ground. One worker scooped strips of metal into a bin. Later, a machine knocked brick from the building’s facade.
The disruption raised questions among conservationists about whether some of the small portion of bats that remain year-round will start to look for new homes. Living amid the demolition noise and vibration would be like trying to sleep in on a Saturday and instead waking up to one’s neighbor running a lawnmower, said Fran Hutchins, of Bat Conservation International.
“They’re well aware something’s going on,” Hutchins said.
See here for the background. As we know, there were bat houses built by TDCJ in 2017 to house those bats, but for whatever the reason the bats preferred their current digs. What will they do once that’s gone? No one knows. Hope for the best, I guess. If some of them come to roost at your place, here’s how to handle it.