A few blocks from downtown Huntsville is an old, decrepit warehouse across the street from the Texas State Penitentiary. The former cotton warehouse belongs to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and has been abandoned for several decades.
However, it’s had residents living in it since the late ’90s. A large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats occupies its walls — an estimated 750,000 of them. Every night from spring to fall, just at dark, they make their way out of the dilapidated warehouse, flooding the sky in search for food.
TDCJ has wanted to tear down the condemned building for years but has been unable to do so because of the building’s current inhabitants. In 1995, Gov. George W. Bush signed a resolution designating the Mexican free-tailed bat as the official flying mammal of Texas — making the demolition impossible as long as the bats are roosting there. TDCJ erected bat houses adjacent to the warehouse in hopes that the bats would relocate over the course of several years.
For now, it’s a sight to see.
Here are some tips for optimal viewing of this spectacular event.
- Most of the bat colony migrates south during the winter months, so optimal viewing times are in the spring, summer and fall.
- The best place to view the bats is on Avenue I, in between 13th and 14th Streets.
- Don’t stand on the warehouse side of the street unless you have an umbrella.
- Make sure to turn off your headlights.
- Watch when crossing the street — speeding traffic can be a hazard.