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Mexican free-tail bats in the Austin skyline

The long-term damage caused by Winter Storm Uri is becoming more and more evident, and Austin's bat population is no exception.

The bats, which serve as both a tourist attraction and token of pride for many Austinites, have been found dead or dying en masse under bridges and overpasses throughout the city.

Austin Animal Center officials said they have heard reports of 60-100 dead bats since the storm kept temperatures subfreezing for days.

To help combat the issue, conservation groups including Austin Bat Refuge are rehabilitating the animals using insulin syringes and feeding supplies to keep bats alive.

Officials are quickly realizing that mass bat deaths are happening statewide. On Wednesday, Texas Parks and Wildlife posted pictures of what looked to be hundreds of dead bats on Facebook. The department asked for the public's help in reporting bat deaths by checking under bridges, reporting how many bats can be found and putting data into the iNaturalist project. Over 2,000 wildlife deaths have been reported as a result of Winter Storm Uri in the project.

The mass deaths are distressing to wildlife experts because bats are vital to Texas agriculture, acting as a "natural pest control" by controlling insect populations. As a result, if bats were to go extinct in the area, food prices would rise.

Austin, with its 1.5 million Congress Avenue Bridge bats, has even more ties to the animals. While the bats offer a uniquely Austin experience that attracts tourists and locals alike, they also eat up to 30,000 bugs a night, giving the city a more insect-free experience as well. The mosquito-repelling animals that reside in the city are also North America's largest urban bat population.

Austin Animal Center warned residents not to touch bats when making reports. If a dead or dying bat is found, the department said to call Austin 311 so the animals can get the care they need. Austin Bat Rescue is also asking for donations of 1 ml insulin syringes to help save more bats.


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