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Energy & Environment
Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

Extreme Cold Weather Kills Bats Across Texas

Signs under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin warn people not to touch the bats.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Signs under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin warn people not to touch the bats.

Large numbers of dead or dying bats are being discovered under bridges and overpasses in Texas after last week's winter storm. One Austin resident sent KUT a video of what she saw downtown under a bridge at Henderson and Ninth Street.

“It was really upsetting,” Amy Miley said. “A number of them were obviously dead, and then a number of them were not dead yet, so they were suffering.”

Watch Miley's video below. Warning: Its content may be disturbing to some.

PXL_20210224_155712427.mp4

Texas Public Radio reports hundreds of dead bats were also found beneath I-35 in San Antonio.

Biologists say climate change has caused bats to adjust their migratory patterns so that some spend too much time in the winter in places like Texas instead of flying south.

“An extreme storm event like this is really unprecedented, and the bats couldn’t handle the physiological damage,” said Dr. Winifred Frick, chief scientist at Bat Conservation International. “They most likely froze to death.”

“The scale of this die-off … I think this is really unprecedented in Texas,” Frick said.

Meanwhile, some groups are scrambling to rehabilitate bats that survived.

"We’re doing our best, as are rehabbers all over Texas," Austin Bat Refuge posted on Facebook. "If you’re local, we could use more 1 ml insulin syringes (29-31 ga) and 1 ml syringes no needles."

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department posted images on Facebook of a mass bat die-off. They showed garbage bags filled with dead bats.

TPWD is trying to track the extent of the die-off by asking people to check under bridges and overpasses for dead bats and report data and photos to the iNaturalist project.

The department warns that no one without proper training should touch bats, regardless of whether the bats are alive or dead.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Bernier at nbernier@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.

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