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Drought Harming Austin Bats

Photo by alumroot
Bats exit from underneath the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk

For many Austinites, watching a swarm of bats fly out from underneath the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at sundown is a favorite summer pastime. But this year's drought is taking a toll on that tradition.

Forty plus days of 100 degree weather and no rain have the Mexican free-tailed bats of Central Texas a little stressed. The drought has made it harder for them to find food. Bats are exiting their roosts earlier in the evenings and coming back later in the morning.

“This is basically so they can fly farther and have a longer window of time in order to forage for insects out over the agricultural fields and around town," Mylea Bayless with Austin-based Bat Conservation International told KUT News.

Bats need to eat their weight, up to about half an ounce, of bugs every night. It keeps the bug population low without pesticides. But, if the bugs fly further out in search of water in irrigated fields, the bats will follow. Bayless says bats face more danger when they forage earlier in the evening.

“We may see higher predation of hawks and other kinds of predators eating the bats as they exit the roosts," she said.

A year or two of drought isn’t expected to have an impact on bat population. It’s the long-term drought that she says would be bad news for both the bats and Central Texans who enjoy the environmentally friendly pest control.