Hundreds of bats found dead under San Antonio bridges following winter storm

Area wildlife has been impacted by freezing weather

SAN ANTONIO – As the state was crippled by subfreezing temperatures, millions of people were left with out power, water and food for days. But humans weren’t the only ones battling for survival.

Native wildlife was also at the mercy of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Hundreds of Mexican Free-tailed Bats were discovered dead under San Antonio bridges and underpasses. Southern Refuge Rehab’s owner and president, Michelle Una Camara said these are migrating bats that typically go south in winter months but stay in the region because of the warm temperatures.

Camara said the Loop 410 and San Pedro underpass is home to one of the city’s largest colony of bats.

Mexican Free-Tailed Bats, when exposed to long periods of cold temperature, go into torpor, a state of mental, physical and sensory inactivity instead of hibernation.

Camara said the bats metabolism doesn’t work in extreme cold conditions, their bodies are ambient to the outside temperatures. The colder it gets, the less likely they can move.

A combination of prolonged freezing temperatures and lack of food added to the bats demise.

Camara said the bats can eat a lot and can typically eat up to a thousand bugs. Some bats froze to death and others died from impact injuries sustained after falling from 40 to 50-foot high bridges.

“A lot of those had impact injuries. Head injuries, back injuries, internal injuries. Some were weak and starving and didn’t make it,” Camara said.

Bats, however, weren’t the only one impacted. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is asking for the public’s help in reporting wildlife mortality across the state. They said some of the wildlife affected also include exotic, non-native ungulates like axis deer, blackbuck and nilgai antelope that originate in temperate climates, and multiple bird species.

Experts are advising the public to not handle an injured bat if encountered and instead urge citizens to contact iNaturalist and the Bat World Sanctuary website for assistance.

The TPWD is collecting data to better gauge the effects of the winter storm on native fauna.


About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT's Nightbeat. Jonathan speaks English and Spanish and is a veteran of the United States Navy. Previously, he worked in South Texas.