ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Mall of Abilene recently called in help when they found that bats had taken up residence on the exterior of the building, as well as a few that chose to roost inside. 181 bats were removed on Wednesday by the Bat World Sanctuary, Big Country Wildlife Rehab Center, and Abilene Animal Control. Now, the Mall’s operations manager has become the subject of public outcry for his alleged handling of the bats that remained at the Mall.

A Facebook post by Big Country Wildlife Rehab staff detailed a text conversation between her and the Mall operations manager. In those texts, it is revealed that after the wildlife organizations had installed nets that would allow the bats to leave but not re-enter, Mall management had apparently sealed all the exits shut, effectively trapping the bats inside.

Those texts detail that the manager may have captured two of the bats in a box that he later put in the bed of his truck. Further inquiry from Big Country Wildlife discovered that the bats had died in the box during the hour they were left there, possibly from the heat.

KTAB/KRBC contacted local Texas Game Warden Amelia Tidwell for some insight into the legality of his alleged actions.

“I know there has been a lot of controversy over social media as well, and we’re here to clarify that bats are federally protected. However, it does state that if there are bats occupying in or on a building that is occupied by people. The bats are allowed to be removed or hunted. And it does not specify in what manner,” Tidwell said.

The law she is quoting is from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, subchapter B. Tidwell stated that while these bats are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, this Texas law allows for their removal by any means when they occupy a building also occupied by humans.

“I know there has been some comments… that they should be fined, but legally there’s not anything that we can do about it,” Tidwell explained.

While the law may not require any action, the court of public opinion disagrees. The Facebook post by Big Country Wildlife has garnered hundreds of comments from concerned public members, many reaching out to the mall management to voice their displeasure.

“Maybe morally, there could be a better way of going about it,” Tidwell said.

KTAB/KRBC reached out to the Mall of Abilene, though they are not able to provide any statement at this time. They did confirm that they are working with other removal and pest control organizations to facilitate the remaining bats’ removal.