It seems to me everyone has an opinion on the bat issue at The Mall of Abilene. So I asked the owner of a local pest extermination company his professional thoughts. The answers I got blew me away because, after researching everything I was told, I realized only a few things were true. The information I was given were not actual facts, but rather old folklore.

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So I reached out to a wildlife expert. Formerly employed by the Abilene Zoo, Clay Carabajal has his own YouTube channel called "The Wild Side With Clay" (see videos below). He informed me that a lot of current bat information is myth.

There are several factors to take into consideration when addressing the bat issue at The Mall of Abilene. The bats found at the mall are Mexican Free-Tail bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), one out of about 1,240 different species. These Mexican Free Tail bats are insect eaters. The lights around the mall parking lot attract insects, thus attracting the bats.

While bats are known to be rabies vectors, meaning they can carry and transmit the rabies virus, Clay said it's important to know that not all bats carry rabies. The prevalence of rabies in bat populations varies by species and geographic location.

However, because rabies can have public health implications, it's generally recommended to exercise caution around bats and other wildlife. The famous vampire bat is the only bloodthirsty bat that might potentially scratch the skin of a mammal, but vampire bats are not the bats at The Mall of Abilene.

We now have a medical-based business operating out of the Mall of Abilene and thus must maintain a virus-free environment. So the bats do need to be relocated.

However, bats are important to farmers and ranchers because they help reduce insect pest populations. By eating insects, bats save our Texas agriculture industry billions of dollars every year in pest control. Studies have found that bats' "pest control service" could be worth over $3.7 billion dollars per year, and possibly as much as $53 billion dollars per year in the U.S. alone.

Bats are natural ‘ecological pesticides’ that protect crops and provide valuable ecosystem services to farmers and ranchers. It is my opinion that if we had waited until cooler weather, the swarming insects would have migrated south, the bats would have followed, and no bats would have died. The remaining Mall of Abilene bats will be relocated to Weatherford's bat sanctuary.

By the way, Austin has taken their bat colony and made it a beautiful exhibit under a bridge, annually attracting thousands of tourists and millions of dollars.


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