Alva Goes Batty Over Parking Garage Demolition
ALVA, Oklahoma -- A parking garage was demolished that was once home to hundreds of bats.
The Central National Bank of Alva had been consulting with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on the issue for months. Wildlife officials said the garage was home to an estimated 700 bats, but say the vast majority were males. Any female bats were no longer able to reproduce.
Most of the bats are believed to be Mexican free tail bats. The bats are neither protected at the state or federal level.
Wildlife officials have no jurisdiction, but recommended the bank demolish the garage at night after the bats have left to feed. They say when the bats come back and find the garage gone they should go elsewhere to find a habitat.
Those against the plan believed there were still young bats that are unable to fly and fend for themselves. Ned Bruha, also known as The Skunk Whisperer, helped to lead the fight against the garage's demolition.
"Just because they aren't protected doesn't make this right," said Bruha who stood in front of the bulldozer set to demolish the garage.
Bruha ended up arrested on the garage roof while trying to stop the demolition. Shortly after, the crowd watched the decades old garage get torn down.
Critics say the bank should have waited one more month to guarantee babies would be mature enough to fly out on their own.
Bank officials say the garage was already slated to come down in expansion plans but they were also concerned about the bat guano making it a health hazard.
The Woods County game warden came out Tuesday morning and recovered two injured bats, but one soon died of dehydration. It's still not known how many bats are in the rubble.
"We had injuries, and now we're not allowed to go over there and pick up the dead or injured bats to try to help them out. I think that's ludicrous," Bruha said.
"There's beams, partial walls, things that weigh thousands of pounds that's not stable, so we don't want anyone in there to get hurt or killed over a bat," said Bank Director Brian Hofen.
Bats were seen flying back into the area under the collapsed roof. The bank waited until late Tuesday night to begin removing rubble from that area to allow the bats to leave for their nightly hunting.
Ned Bruha was released from jail Tuesday morning after the game warden had finished his recovery work. No charges would be filed against him, but he was asked to leave the area. Bruha left Alva Tuesday afternoon.
Lisa McMurphy and a few other concerned citizens remained to monitor the situation and to take care of any bats that may be found by the game warden.
Bank officials said they simply wanted to diffuse the situation, considering the bank has received numerous threats over the last few days from as far away as Austria.
The folks looking out for the bats said they hope this will bring about a law protecting animals in similar situations.