1,600 bats fell to the ground during Houston’s cold snap. Here’s how they were saved
About 1,600 bats found a temporary home this week in the attic of a Houston Humane Society director, but not because they made their home.
It was a temporary recovery space for the flying mammals after they lost control and plunged to the pavement after going into hypothermic shock during the city’s recent cold snap.
On Wednesday, more than 1,500 will be released back into their habitats — two Houston-area bridges — after wildlife rescuers took them in and saved them by administering fluids and keeping them warm in incubators.
Mary Warwick, director of wildlife at the Houston Humane Society, said she was holiday shopping when the bitter winds reminded her that she hadn’t heard how the bats were faring in the unusually cold temperatures for the region. So she drove to the bridge where over 100 bats appeared dead as they lay frozen on the ground.
But during her 40-minute drive home, Warwick said they began to come back to life, chirping and moving in a box where she collected them and placed them in her heated passenger seat for warmth. She put the bats in incubators and returned to the bridge twice a day to collect more.
Two days later, she received a call about more than 900 bats being rescued from a bridge in Pearland, Texas. On the third and fourth day, more people showed up to rescue the bats from the Waugh Bridge in Houston, and a coordinated transport effort was created to get the bats to Warwick.
Warwick said each of the bats was warmed in an incubator until their body temperature rose and then hydrated through fluids given under the skin.
After contacting other bat rehabilitators, Warwick said it was too much for one person to feed and care for, and the society’s current facilities didn’t have the space, so they moved them into her attic where they were apart from the colony in the dog. kennel and able to achieve a state of hibernation that did not require them to eat.
“As soon as I wake up in the morning I’m like, ‘How are they doing, I’ve got to go see them,'” Warwick said.
Now, nearly 700 bats are slated to return to the wild Wednesday on the Waugh Bridge and about 850 on the bridge in Pearland as temperatures in the region warm. She said more than 100 bats died from the cold, some because the fall itself — ranging from 15 to 30 feet — from the bridges killed them; 56 are recovering at the Bat World sanctuary; and 20 will stay with Warwick a little longer.
The humane society is now working to raise money for facility improvements that would include a bat room, Warwick added. Next month, Warwick — the only bat rehabilitator in Houston — said the entire animal rehabilitation society team will be vaccinated against rabies and trained in bat rehabilitation as they prepare to move to a larger structure with a room dedicated to bats.
“That would really help in these situations where we keep seeing these weird weather patterns,” she said. “We could really use more space to rehabilitate bats.”
Houston reached unseasonably cold temperatures last week as an Arctic blast blanketed much of the country. Storm conditions from the same storm system have been blamed for more than 30 deaths in the Buffalo, New York area.
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