Bat colony claims abandoned building

Roughly 250,000 Mexican Free-Tail bats have claimed an abandoned warehouse across the Walls Prison Unit in Huntsville, which they call home. 

Runners might have noticed them flying in and out of the building and perhaps even more so, the stench that hits passersby.

Prior to being home to the bat colony, the warehouse was built in 1937 and for many years it was used for storage until it was damaged by a fire in late 2002. However, the bat colony began to form before that, in 1996.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice wants to tear the abandoned building down, but because the bats are protected by state law, this feat proves difficult, calling for eco-friendly solutions.

Director of the Texas Prison Museum, James Willett, shared the building’s original purpose and the events that led to its current state.

“The large end of the building (nearest the college) was a warehouse built in 1937,” Willett said. “The smaller portion at the other end was built in 1949 as a guard’s dormitory. Later it was made into offices, when a newer dorm for the Huntsville Unit officers was built at the Diagnostic Unit (now the Byrd Unit).”

In December 2002, cotton which was stored in the warehouse end of the building caught fire. The building was then emptied and closed down almost immediately.

The demolishing of the building has been a topic of debate for some time now.

When asked what some of the pros and cons of demolishing the building would be, Willett responded, “The pros would be doing so before the building falls on its own. I’m sure the stench is hard to bear on a windy day, and any officer that works on the picket [the watch tower on the top corner of the wall] across from the warehouse would be appreciative of the tearing down of the building.”

Jason Clark, Director of Public Information of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, shared the concerns that are reoccurring.

“Dr. Monte Thies of Sam Houston State University, Bat Conservation International and Huntsville Audubon Society requested that the demolition of the building be delayed until the bat colony has relocated,” he said.

It was identified for demolition due to the fire damage and the facility no longer being useful, according to Clark.

Currently there is no update on whether or not the building will be torn down in the near future or if the bats will be relocated. However, the bats do prove to be useful as moving them could result in an increase in the insect population considering the basis of their diet are insects.

The bats are migrated to Mexico over the winter break. They will be back this spring to once again to claim their home.

Multiple attempts to contact Thies were unsuccessful.

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