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Freezing bats rescued as hypothermic shock hits their colony in Texas

With a wave of frigid air triggering “hypothermic shock” in a colony of bats clinging to their roost beneath a bridge in Texas, an animal protection organisation has launched a bat rescue.

Nearly frozen, the bats began losing their grip and falling to the pavement from nine meters (30 feet) up, the Houston Humane Society reported on its Facebook page.

The Mexican free-tailed bats “are tiny, and have minimal body fat, so they are not able to live long when laying exposed on the ground in freezing temperatures,” the Humane Society explained.

As the cold wave intensified last Thursday, the group gathered up 929 bats clinging to their roost beneath the Waugh Bridge in Houston, a sprawling city, and provided them heat and nutrition.

Volunteers joined in the effort and more than 1,500 bats were taken in by the weekend, kept warm at the shelter or in the attic of society wildlife director Mary Warwick.

Most survived

Most bats only needed warmth and water, but the most affected were placed in incubators and fed intravenously.

“Amazingly, most of (the) bats have survived,” the society said.

With temperatures climbing to 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, the society released “close to 700” of the bats back to the bridge, leaving them free to swoop through the skies for insects.

Bat watching is a popular pastime in Texas, and a number of bridges have huge colonies.

The Waugh Bridge in Houston, Congress Bridge in Austin and Camden Street Bridge in San Antonio all draw visitors at dusk, when the bats leave en masse for nightly feeding forays.

READ MORE: Bats could hold key to evolution of human communication

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