Celebrating #BatWeek with Houston Parks Board

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No... these are not Halloween decorations!

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HOUSTON (KIAH) –  Bat week is October 24th to October 31st!  We use this time to celebrate the many contributions bats make… like eating mosquitoes! Bats migrate each year. When cold fronts begin to arrive in Texas around late October to mid-November, bats will migrate south to caves in Mexico. They will spend their winters there but will return to the Houston area in February!

White oak bayou encompasses over 17 miles of public green space and hike-and-bike trails within Houston’s city limits. In the past two years, creating new bat houses surrounded by habitat has become a renewed focus of the Houston Parks Board Conservation program. The White Oak Bayou Greenway trail also intersects with the Houston Heights Hike and Bike Trail three times, passing through the historic Heights and Woodland Heights communities. This bayou is also home to a very special and spooky native species. While running these trails you may not always be able to see them, but their voices cannot be mistaken!

“EEEDDDEDEDEDEDEEEEE, but even higher pitched than that. It is real sporadic,” says Nicole Romano, a member of the Houston Parks Board.  

Not every bridge or bayou in town is fit for these, primarily Mexican Free Tail bats, to call home, but Watonga bridge has structural qualities that they need.  

“It allows for the bats to sneak into the crevices and be safe from predators”, says Romano. 

If the bats call “under the bridge” their home… Then what is the purpose of these bat boxes?  

“In times of stress, like flood events, for example, Tax Day flood or Harvey. The water in white oak is obviously going to rise.,” Romano adds. 

The water can and has reached the bottom of the bridge, almost overtopping it. If the bats stay there, they will drown. The boxes serve as a bat haven, or an evacuation route in the case of poor weather.  

“That gives them an opportunity to escape and to just kind of ride out a storm, and then they can go back into their normal colonies,” Romano. 

February’s winter storm took a toll on Houston’s bat population. Bats need it to be much warmer than the temperatures we experienced.  

“At certain temperatures bats will not emerge out of their roosting areas. What ended up happening is that they were lacking in food, starving to death, and they were also not able to get water, so they were dehydrating. A lot of them unfortunately perished,” Romano says. 

The houston parks board was able to rescue multiple bats that fell out of their roosting areas during the cold and get them to a safer place to rise out the hazardous conditions.  

However, while doing this they were being safe. Although they may look cute… 

“They actually have really adorable faces that look like puppy faces,” Romano. 

Toching one of these bats can be dangerous.  

“We definitely discourage people from trying to pick them up by hand, remember you are picking up an animal that is in stress, and an animal that will probably react to that… It is scared. They could bite so it is best to just leave them be.,” Romano replied. 

If you see a downed bat, you should call Texas parks and wildlife, a wildlife rehabber, or the Houston parks board. 

Saturday, October 30, Houston Parks Board is hosting #ParksByYouDay – a volunteer event focusing on Prairie Restoration to celebrate International Bat Week which runs from October 24th to October 31st. Prairies are a vital part of Houston’s ecosystem, especially for pollinators, birds, and bats.

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