Migrating bats reclaim NTCC as home

A growing number of Mexican free-tailed bats recently took up residence in the Whatley.

Staff Photo | Elisabeth Lively

By Elisabeth Lively

Some pests just won’t go away, and Northeast Texas Community College is getting pretty darn tired of those pesky bats.

Last spring, a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats took up residence in multiple buildings across the NTCC campus. The bats, migrating from Mexico and the lower-Texas area, were using NTCC as a pit-stop before continuing their journey north.

The bat problem on campus was believed to be solved last spring when the college hired Critter Control, an animal control company from Mineola, to seal up the buildings. Because the Mexican free-tailed bats are a protected species and cannot be exterminated, the company had to set up a temporary device that allowed the creatures to exit buildings, but not return.

That did not, however, stop the bats from returning to their temporary home on campus this semester.

Russell Taylor, NTCC security coordinator, said that the security team had suspicions that the bats had returned to campus during the Christmas break.

He said the speculation began when some of the security officers believed to hear them, and then the occasional bat sighting indoors, with the assumption that they were flying through an open door. That’s when the situation began to escalate.

“It doesn’t take long,” Taylor said. “You can have no bats one day, and then you can have a thousand the next day, depending on how big their colony is.”

Taylor said that once the semester started, they knew for sure that the bats were “back in numbers” and not just flying through open doors.

Last spring, the bats resided in the ceilings of many campus buildings and in the thin crevasses between the walls. It is assumed that the bats are nesting in the same areas this year.

While the colony has primarily been located in the business technology building, there have been other bat sightings in the humanities building, the College Store and the instructional annex, with a growing population of bats taking up residence in the Whatley.

In one case, a bat swooped from the ceiling and nearly collided with a student when it flew past her face in the humanities building.

While bats can be beneficial because they eat mosquitoes and other bugs, they can become a danger when living indoors. Pests.org wrote that bat feces, called guano, is not only unsanitary, but that it can cause histoplasmosis, a serious respiratory disease. Guano also produces a repelling odor that attracts cockroaches and other pests.

On the second week of the semester, Eagle staff members inspected the back corner of the BT building for possible sightings of the winged creatures. Once the sun went down, the bats began exiting the building in groups, five to ten at a time, approximately every 15 seconds to 1 minute.

Once it became known that there were more than just a few bats on campus, it did not take long before the decision was made to contact Critter Control again and take advantage of the company’s one-year warranty.

Shawn McCreight, owner of Critter Control, recently returned to seal up the back corner of the BT building where many of the bats were residing. McCreight said that the bats were not inside at the time of his visit, so there was no reason to attach the one-way gate as used last year.

While the Whatley is seeing more and more bats, McCreight did not seal it up because he said he had not yet been hired to do that specific building, but the issue has been discussed. McCreight did say that it should be sealed because the bats will move there after realizing their home in the BT had been closed up.

“This spot right here [behind the BT] was just overlooked last time,” he said. “It should have been sealed off, but it wasn’t.”

Taylor said that while they are currently working to rid the campus of the creatures, these migrating bats could potentially be a long-term issue.

“It might be a battle for a couple generations of bats because they always return to their nesting site,” Taylor said. “Everything that’s born here will try to come back next year.”

Like Taylor, Tom Ramler, NTCC director of plant services, said the bats could continue to be a recurring issue for some time.

NTCC director of plant services, agrees that the bats could continue to be a recurring issue on campus.

“As much as I would love to say this is a one and done [solution], this may be something that we have to continue to chase down for the next few years to try and continue to encourage them to find another place to roost,” Ramler said.

Ramler said he wants the bats to stay in the area, just not at the college. He also said that the idea of building bat boxes has been discussed.

“It seems like if you don’t give them a place to go, then they’re going to go where they went last time,” he said.

McCreight said that bugs are another reason the bats have taken up residence at NTCC.

“They’re also following bugs, so if there’s a part of the state or the country where historically insects had been available in large quantities, then they’ll be there in those areas hunting for those insects,” he said. “And when we get a cold snap like this, they’re not going to stick around for that long before they decide to move on and go find a place where there’s warmer temperatures and where they can find bugs at night.”

Like Ramler and Taylor, McCreight said that the bats would once again try to make their home on the Northeast campus.

McCreight said that the bats are bound to return, looking for any gaps that have appeared from the aging metal roofs and flashing that has separated from the wall.

“As time goes on they’ll eventually give up coming here all together, but it should take a couple of years,” he said

McCreight warns against touching or provoking the creatures if seen because they carry and can transmit a disease. If a bat is seen, please contact NTCC Security at 903-563-1417 or Tom Ramler at 903-204-8681.