The sun was setting behind the Strip on a recent Sunday when the Road Warrior had just flown into McCarran International Airport after a few relaxing days in San Diego.
While briefly taking in the scenery from the sixth floor of the airport’s parking garage near Terminal 1, a flurry of small winged creatures flew past.
It wasn’t a bird, and it wasn’t a plane.
“I see you met our bats,” a cheery parking attendant said while chuckling at my look of astonishment.
Mexican freetail bats took up residence about 25 to 30 years ago at the adjacent employee parking garage, where they roost within cozy, 2-inch nooks behind concrete panels lining the southern end of the structure. The bats typically migrate south for the winter but might have stuck around at McCarran because the desert sun keeps the garage warm year-round.
Those conditions have made the garage, built above the taxicab staging area in 1985, an unintentional but ideal habitat for the winged mammals.
And, airport officials have left the creatures alone, seeing no need for eradication.
“I see absolutely no disadvantage to having them at the airport,” said Brett Riddle, a professor at UNLV’s School of Life Sciences, who issued a report about the airport’s bat habitat in 1994.
“They don’t fly in your hair, they stay away from the airplanes, and they tend to stay out of your way,” Riddle said. “They’re harmless, and I think it’s pretty awesome that they’re still here.”
There is no official count of McCarran’s bat population, but they could number in the thousands with a tendency to come out around dusk.
Even if you don’t spot one, signs of their presence are everywhere. Black bat droppings, known as guano, cover the railings and walls of the airport’s employee parking lot. Professional crews clean the mess four times a year.
If you have some extra time before your flight, take a moment to stop and listen. That squeaky chirp echoing through the cavernous garage isn’t a parakeet or a baggage cart with a loose wheel. It’s probably one of the bats.
“If you’re not aware of them, then you just don’t notice them,” airport spokeswoman Christine Crews said.
The bats primarily eat insects and have been spotted feeding on some of the bugs flying around the long light beam shooting from the top of Luxor’s pyramid during warm weather, Crews said. The light attracts the insects, which in turn draws the bats.
“It’s like a buffet for everyone,” Crews said.
The airport might be an appropriate home for the Mexican freetail bats. They’re known as the “jets” of the bat world, capable of flying up to 60 mph with a wingspan reaching up to 14 inches.
Mexican freetails are found as far north as Oregon and as far south as Argentina. Closer to home, colonies have been discovered in the railroad tunnel hiking trail near Lake Mead and beneath the McCarran Boulevard bridge spanning the Truckee River in Reno.
“They seem to be doing quite well at the airport,” said Cris Tomlinson, a biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“If you don’t bother them, then they won’t bother you,” Tomlinson said. “It’s just another oddball thing about McCarran.”
A few of you raised issues about the timing of traffic signals at several intersections spread across Clark County.
Cheryl from Las Vegas noted that the signal cycle often skipped the drivers on southbound Jones Boulevard wanting to turn left onto Desert Inn Road, prompting some people to simply run the red light.
Joe, a maintenance worker for Alaska Airlines, regularly encountered an unusually long red light on southbound Eastern Avenue, though there was no cross traffic at Hacienda Avenue during his 4:30 a.m. commutes to McCarran.
And Andrew from Las Vegas said that the red light was too long for drivers on northbound Durango Drive waiting to turn left onto Twain Avenue, prompting some drivers to detour down a small, residential street to avoid the situation.
In all three cases, your letters prompted traffic engineers to make the appropriate signal adjustments for a smoother drive, county spokesman Dan Kulin said.
Another flashing yellow request
Nancy from North Las Vegas wanted to know whether city officials could install a flashing yellow left-turn arrow for the signal at eastbound Cheyenne Avenue and Valley Drive.
“Right now, you can turn left on a green arrow only, creating a long line of cars,” Nancy wrote in an email to the Road Warrior.
Delen Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the city, said the request will be reviewed to see if it makes sense and whether existing signal equipment would be able to handle this change.
Questions and comments should be sent to email@example.com. Please include your phone number. Follow @RJroadwarrior on Twitter.
Road work ahead
■ Washington Avenue offramp from southbound Interstate 15 will be closed until 6 a.m. Thursday. Crews are installing traffic management signs.
■ Washington Avenue is restricted between Robin Street and Rancho Drive through Oct. 19. Crews are working on a channel project.
■ Washington Avenue is restricted between Rainbow and Decatur boulevards from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through first week of December. Crews are laying new pavement and adding medians.
■ Main Street is restricted between Fremont Street and Ogden Avenue through Dec. 20. Crews are demolishing a building.
■ Ninth Street is closed between Carson and Main streets through Dec. 31. Crews are installing water and sewer lines.
■ U.S. Highway 95 is restricted between Rancho Road and just east of Interstate 15 through January 2018. Crews are building a new flyover ramp for high-occupancy vehicles as part of Project Neon.
■ The Martin Luther King Boulevard onramp to northbound Interstate 15 is closed through January 2018. Crews are building a carpool ramp.
■ The ramp connecting southbound U.S. Highway 95 to northbound Interstate 15 is closed through January 2018. Crews are building a carpool ramp.
■ Main Street is restricted between Bonneville Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard through May 2018. Crews are working on a storm drain.
■ Sections of Bonneville Avenue, Charleston Boulevard, Grand Central Parkway and Martin Luther King Boulevard will have closed or disrupted lanes surrounding the Spaghetti Bowl as crews work on Project Neon through July 2018.
■ Fort Apache Road is restricted between Sunset and Post roads through Oct. 31. Crews are doing sewer work.
■ Sunset Road is restricted between Fort Apache Road and Ivesdale Street through Oct. 31. Crews are doing sewer work.
■ Jones Boulevard will be intermittently restricted between Warm Springs and Robindale roads through Oct. 31. Crews are doing field survey work.
■ Northbound U.S. Highway 95 will be restricted between Lake Mead Boulevard and Auto Show Drive from 9 p.m. Monday to 4 a.m. Tuesday. Crews are making bridge repairs.
■ Southbound U.S. Highway 95 will be restricted between Lake Mead Boulevard and Auto Show Drive from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday. Crews are making bridge repairs.
■ Appaloosa Road is restricted between Wagonwheel Drive and Rawhide Drive through late October. Crews are installing a storm drain.
■ Wigwam Parkway will be intermittently closed in both directions at Gibson Road through the end of December. Crews are installing a new traffic signal and making sidewalk improvements.
■ Center Street is restricted between Burkholder Boulevard and Lake Mead Parkway through June 2018. Crews are making various road improvements.
North Las Vegas
■ The carpool lane on U.S. Highway 95 will be closed between Cheyenne Avenue and Long Mountain Road from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Crews are repairing the median lights.
■ Nellis Boulevard is restricted between Cheyenne Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays through July 2018. Crews are installing sewer pipes.
The average gasoline price Friday in the Las Vegas Valley was $2.69 per gallon. It was $2.76 in Nevada. The national average of $2.56 is the same as a week ago, up 16 cents from a month ago and up 35 cents from a year ago.
Las Vegas Review-Journal