Hundreds of thousands of bats for part of the year live in an abandoned warehouse across the street from the Walls Prison Unit in Huntsville. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice wants to tear that abandoned building down, but getting rid of these bats is not easy.
Dr. Monte Thies is a biology professor at Sam Houston State University. He says he started studying the bats in the TDCJ warehouse more than ten years ago.
“No one watched them, no one chased them out, and over 10 years, the population just got bigger and bigger and bigger,” said Dr. Thies. “It's the closest thing to a man-made cave that you can probably ever get without building a cave.”
Thies says the bats have migrated to Mexico for winter, but approximately 250,000 Mexican free-tails will head back to the abandoned warehouse in the Spring.
“Each of those bats will go out and eat half of their body weight in insects. Some of the estimates are that a colony this size will eat a semi-trailer load of insects a year,” said Dr. Thies.
If the warehouse is torn down, the bats will have nowhere to go, and fewer bats means more bugs.
Dr. Thies says they’re considering building bat houses, which could cost more than 16-thousand dollars and take 4-5 years to complete.
“Do the bats like it, do they want to be there? We don't know. We just hope. We could build the houses and they never move in,” said Dr. Thies.
City officials say they just started discussing the issue, so it take time before any decisions are made.