- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Jacksonville State University students aren’t the only mammals fleeing campus next week for spring break.

University officials are also planning to get rid of “50 to 100, if not more” bats that have infested the university’s music building, Mason Hall. The winged critters made their unexpected debut beneath the stage lights during a jazz performance last week, said Patty Hobbs, a JSU spokeswoman.

Early this week JSU hired the wildlife removal company Animal Control Experts to manage the problem. Monday the company removed six bats from the building, but it won’t be able to expel the remaining animals until students go home next week, Hobbs said.

Bat droppings have been cleared and classes are being held in Mason Hall this week, she added. Next week Animal Control Experts will seal an opening the bats have used to enter the building and begin installing “bat valves,” which allow the animals to crawl out and block them from returning.

The Jeff Hamilton Trio was leaving the stage for a short break from its headlining performance at the JSU Jazz Festival Friday when the first bat appeared beneath lights illuminating the performance area, said Kelly Gregg, a JSU professor who attended the show. A few moments later, another professor peered behind a curtain and about half a dozen more bats flew out, prompting organizers to cut the trio’s set short.

“They were all wheeling and diving very rapidly in the lights,” Gregg said of the bats.

Around 100 concert-goers at the show were “stunned” when the bats appeared, Gregg said.

“When there was one bat there was a little bit of laughter, but after there were six bats people were just kind of shocked and then very disappointed when the concert was canceled,” he said.

A sighting had been reported the day before the performance and the university sent a crew to the site at dusk, but found nothing, Hobbs said.

“They weren’t able to see any and I think they dismissed it,” Hobbs said.

Recently bats were also shooed out of the football team’s field house, where blocking the animals’ passageway in the roof seemed to have been enough to keep them out of the building, Hobbs said.

“Somehow they find a way to get in and before you know it they’re bad,” Hobbs said.

Gregg said the problem at the performing art’s center underscores the need for a new performing arts center at the university. He said administrators told him when he interviewed to work at JSU two decades ago that they would soon be building a new center, but hasn’t happened.

He also said that students have given Mason Hall a new nickname.

“They’ve started calling it the BC for bat cave, which is both funny and sad,” Gregg said. “We have a bad performing arts center.”

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