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Hundreds of dead bats under Houston bridge are proof of winter storm's toll on wildlife

Experts say the bats either died due to exposure to sustained freezing temperatures or because of starvation in the storm's wake.

HOUSTON — Texas is starting to see some of the toll the winter storm had on its wildlife. One example of the impact of the freeze could be seen Monday on the ground under the Waugh Street Bridge outside of downtown.

Hundreds of dead bats litter the pathways and are some of the animal victims of the storm. The carcasses of the tiny Mexican-freetail bats pepper the concrete alongside Buffalo Bayou.

Experts said they were either killed directly by the freeze or died from starvation in the wake of the storm. They say the bats were not ready for the brutal weather.

“Because these bats don’t live in a cold environment, they have no reason to prepare,” Texas Parks and Wildlife bat biologist Dr. Nate Fuller said. “They have no reason to put on a bunch of body fat.”

Fuller said last week’s winter freeze killed bats throughout the state of Texas. He said it's too early to put a number on how many.

Fuller said several days of freezing temperatures were too much for many of the bats to take, and for others, the insects they needed for food to survive, may have been killed off by the storm.

“When you’re a southern bat and you’re trying to live the beach lifestyle, they’re just weren’t ready for it,” Fuller said. “And just like all of us, they were caught off guard, with tragic consequences.”

Fuller said there have been reports of dead birds being found throughout the state as well. As shocking as the images may appear, Fuller says Houston’s bats will survive.

“The good news is that I think there should be a good population of bats in that bridge for years to come,” Fuller said. “The bad news is that we lost a bunch of animals to this cold spell.”