The Huntsville bats get a reprieve

A little bit of good news, which we can all use.

Hundreds of thousands of bats living in a damaged Texas Department of Criminal Justice warehouse will get a little more time before their fate is decided. A temporary stay, if you will.

Agency officials have agreed to pause their plans to demolish the remainder of the animals’ decrepit, brick home, which faces the unit where death row prisoners are executed. Residents rallied to the bats’ defense, concerned for the animals and themselves.

Workers drew attention to the issue earlier this year, when they started tearing down part of the building where they said no bats were living. They planned to destroy the rest after the migratory colony of Mexican free-tailed bats luxuriated for one last summer in their longtime home.

But organizers came to the flying mammals’ aid. Huntsville City Council Member Daiquiri Beebe helped start the Huntsville Bat Society, planning happy hours and protests. She wanted to avoid the scenario of homeless bats looking for new places to sleep in the city and troubling her constituents. She knew she had to show officials people cared.

And there was Tommy Hoke, an engineering consultant, who parked his truck by the warehouse every Sunday when he went to church. He couldn’t face the guilt of letting the bats’ home be torn down without doing something, so he dug into the research, contacted experts and started another Facebook group.

Help! Save The Bats in Huntsville!!” he called it, not wanting to lose time trying to dream up something more clever. Hoke thought they ought to build an artificial bat cave, perhaps at Huntsville State Park, where the bats could live.


Residents argued the bats needed protecting, as a tourist attraction and an environmental benefit. Bats spiraling out at dusk from under bridges in Austin and Houston draw a crowd. Why couldn’t theirs? Beebe encouraged people to reach out to state Rep. Ernest Bailes.

Then this week the bat fans heard the news — they had won some time, for now.

TDCJ in a statement Thursday said it planned to take time to involve community members and advocates in trying to develop a shared plan. The statement said there was no specific timetable, “but we do know that the warehouse has significant structural issues and an equitable solution must be found before there is a total collapse.”

See here and here for the background. I don’t know how long this reprieve will last, but I hope it’s long enough for a better long-term solution to be worked out. The bats deserve no less.

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