AUSTIN (KXAN) — The impact of the Arctic air that plunged Austin’s temperatures to subfreezing levels last week is still becoming known to a couple tracking the city’s beloved population of bats.

The Austin Bat Refuge‘s cofounders, Lee Mackenzie and Dianne Odegard, said they recovered and began caring for dozens of bats that fell from their homes underneath at least nine bridges during the past few days. The said, however, they’re not seeing the amount of fallout that happened during the Feb. 2021 winter storm. Last year they feared the deadly freeze killed hundreds, if not thousands, of the city’s bats.

“We were expecting the worst given two years ago, the massive fallout from Winter Storm Uri that occurred once the weather started to warm up,” Mackenzie said. “We were dreading the first warm few days expecting the same thing, and we were thrilled to find that our bridge sweeps turned up far fewer bats this year. That being the case, there was still quite a bit of mortality.”

What the couple does is collect the cold-stunned bats and get them warm, usually using boxes. They then use syringes to give fluids to the bats. Later they start feeding them a blended mealworm mixture so that they regain strength before they’re ultimately released.

“It’s really hard to tell at first if they are alive or dead when they’re cold-stunned, so it’s really quite rewarding when they suddenly come back to life,” Mackenzie said. “It’s really what we like the best about this.”

If someone comes across a stunned bat lying along a trail underneath a bridge, Mackenzie and Odegard advise people not to pick them up. They should instead gently scoot them off the trail with a stick and call the Austin Bat Refuge for more assistance. The numbers to call are either (512) 695-4116 or (512) 799-8847.

“The poor, little bats do get affected by this cold weather,” Mackenzie said, “and we feel like our job is to go and find the ones that we’re able to help and to rehab them and get them back out to the bridges.”

While last week’s freeze had less impact on the bats’ safety than expected, Odegard said she remains apprehensive about what the rest of the winter season in Central Texas will bring.

“Winter Storm Uri happened in mid-February, so there’s a lot of winter yet to go,” Odegard said. “We’re just crossing our fingers that we don’t have a lot of long-term freezing weather.”

The couple hopes the community will continue to advocate for the bats. They said situations like last week’s freeze often generate empathy and understanding about how fragile the bats can be in many situations.