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Over 1,000 bats descend on ground in Houston amid frigid temperatures; most saved “minutes from freezing to death”

Over 1,000 bats descend on ground in Houston amid frigid temperatures; most saved “minutes from freezing to death”

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First Warning Weather: Light snow in North Texas, but cold remains a big story

First Warning Weather: Light snow in North Texas, but cold remains a big story

03:13 a.m

About 1,600 bats found a temporary home this week in the attic of a Houston Humane Society director, but not because they made it their sanctuary. It was a temporary recovery site for the flying mammals after they lost their grip and fell to the pavement after going into hypothermic shock during the city’s recent cold snap.

On Wednesday, hundreds were released back into their habitats — two bridges in the Houston area — after wildlife rescuers picked them up and saved them by giving them fluids and keeping them warm in incubators.

“These poor babies were rescued from the ground minutes from freezing to death last week,” the Houston Humane Society tweeted along with a video of the bats.

Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition director Mary Warwick said she was holiday shopping when the freezing winds reminded her she hadn’t heard how the bats were doing in the region’s unusually cold temperatures. So she drove to the bridge where over 100 bats appeared to be 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 on the heated passenger seat for warmth. She placed 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 nearby Pearland, Texas. On the third and fourth days, more people showed up to rescue bats from the Waugh Bridge in Houston, and a coordinated transport effort was organized to transport 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 administered to them under their skin.

After contacting other bat rehabilitators, Warwick said they were too many for one person to feed and care for, and the society’s current facilities didn’t have the space, so they housed them in her attic , where they were separated from a colony in dog kennels and able to reach 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, I have to go see them,'” Warwick said.

CBS affiliate KHOU-TV reported about 700 bats were released back into the wild Wednesday at the Waugh Bridge and about 850 at the Pearland Bridge as temperatures in the region warm. She said more than 100 bats died because of the cold, some because the sheer fall — ranging from 15-30 feet — from the bridges killed them; 56 are recovering in the Bat World sanctuary; and 20 will stay with Warwick a little longer.

Warwick told KHOU-TV that the bats use the Waugh Bridge as a tourist attraction, so they owe it to the bats to look after them if they get into trouble, among other good causes.

“When they first come out of the colony, they eat mosquitoes,” Warwick said. “When they get higher, they eat a lot of moths and insects that affect food crops.”

The humane society is now working to raise money to upgrade the facilities, which will include a bat room, Warwick added. Next month, Warwick — the only person who rehabilitates bats in Houston — said the society’s entire animal rehabilitation team will be vaccinated against rabies and trained to rehabilitate bats as they prepare to move to a larger facility with a special room for bats.

“It would really help in these situations where we keep seeing these strange weather patterns,” she said. “We could really use more space to rehabilitate the bats.”

Houston hit unseasonably cold temperatures last week as an arctic blast swept through much of the country. Blizzard conditions from the same storm system are believed to be responsible for more than 30 deaths in the Buffalo, New York area.

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