Hundreds of bats rescued from the winter storm that hit the US over the past week were finally able to return to their Texas homes last night. The bats nearly froze to death as the storm brought a blast of cold Arctic air to the Lone Star State and much of the mainland US.
Mexican Bats began dropping out of their roosts as temperatures dipped below freezing
According to the Houston Humane Society, Mexican Bats began dropping out of their roosts when temperatures dropped below freezing on the evening of Dec. 22. At a colony under Waugh Bridge in Houston, the little bats plummeted 4.5 to 30 feet to the sidewalk. The bats suffered from hypothermic shock and are said to have perished on the sidewalk. Weighing about half an ounce, the critters don’t have much body fat to keep themselves warm.
But the Houston Human Society moved quickly with a “cold shock” bat rescue initiative at Waugh Bridge and another colony in Brazoria County. You can see some nice videos of the effort on the Houston Humane Society’s Facebook page. “Amazingly, most of the bats survived,” the group said on Facebook Dec. 24. By December 26, they had rescued 1,544 bats.
While more than 50 of the bats needed “more intensive care,” most of them “just needed heat support and hydration to get their systems up and running quickly,” the Houston Humane Society said in a Facebook post. “They will be held, with specialized care and feeding, until the weather warms up and release is possible.”
Fortunately, the weather was just right for their release yesterday. The Human Society even set up a Facebook event inviting the public to watch the bats’ homecoming. Some 700 bats were returned to their colony under Waugh Bridge on Wednesday evening. “Hundreds” were returned to a separate colony at the Pearland Fite Road Bridge in Brazoria County.
But even after this success story, the Houston Humane Society is preparing for future weather disasters. The Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition (TWRC) is raising money for a new building, which is supposed to contain “a special bat room.”
“That would really help with these situations as we continue to see these strange weather patterns,” Mary Warwick, HHS TWRC Wildlife Director, said in a video posted to Facebook. She shot the video in her attic, where she housed many of the rescued bats in two dog kennels. “We could really use more space to rehabilitate the bats,” she said.
The Mexican free-tailed bat is the most common species of bat to flutter around Texas, and is the official “state flying mammal.” They usually spend the winters in Mexico, but will move north by early spring to give birth and raise their young in large “nursery colonies”. The bats need warm and humid homes for their growing family – usually in caves, but they will also make it in bridges and tunnels.