Click2Daily: Waugh Bridge bat colony impacted by Hurricane Harvey

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - Pass by Waugh Drive around sundown and you will find thousands of bats flying above and around the bridge, but since Hurricane Harvey, that number has decreased.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said it doesn’t know how many bats were killed because of the flooding, but it’s evident it has impacted the population of the bats.

“Bats were in the crevices of the bridge and the water got up high enough that it flooded some of those crevices,” explained Diana Foss who is an urban wildlife biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“We don’t have an estimate on how many bats have died. Over the winter time, we’re doing some crevice counts and estimate how many bats are still there and get a better estimate of how many bats lived in the bridge,” explained Foss.

“I walk a lot and so tonight I decided to walk under the Waugh Street Bridge to see if the bats were coming back,” explained Gary Backens. “There are a whole lot less after the floods. I came out and you could see thousands and thousands of them flying and they would fly up toward the tops of the skyscrapers and now you see very few and it seems to be darker when they come out.”

Foss said the behavior of the bats has changed.

They usually would fly out in a big group right around sundown, but since Harvey the bats have waited until it’s darker.

“We’re not seeing any predators, like hawks, at all and the bats are waiting until dark and coming out in much smaller groups,” explained Foss. “The behavior right now that we’ve seen and living in Waugh are different, we don’t know if they’re going through some traumatic stress.”

Still, the Mexican free-tailed bats are a sight many people want to see.

“We actually saw on a list of 50 free things to do in Houston and thought it would be a nice idea to come down and see the sunset, “ said Emma Watson who was visiting some friends in Houston from London.

“It’s a nice area, it’s a nice time to be in the sunset and you know the bats are something to see and watch and we hope they come out tonight,” explained Tom Ferron who lives in Houston and taking his friends to see the bats.

On Tuesday night, you could see the bats flying around underneath the bridge.

During the winter months the bats tend to fly south, but Foss said because their behavior has changed since Harvey, it may change.

“It will be interesting to see if we have bats that stay for the winter months,” said Foss. “It’s a new game for the bats (since Harvey), through the winter, spring and summer we’ll be watching to see what they’re doing and what’s changed, if anything.”

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