Austin Bat Refuge takes flight, seeing increase in bat intakes

The Austin Bat Refuge is rehabilitating the largest number of bats they've seen in years and they attribute the increase to social media.

It's becoming one of the best places to hang as the Austin Bat Refuge takes care of about 50 bats a month. This year Lee Mackenzie said they’ve taken in at least 240.

Both Dianne Odegard and Lee Mackenzie started the Austin Bat Refuge a decade ago, and this year they've seen an uptick in calls. Mackenzie attributes the increase to their social media presence. Recently he’s uploaded video of the bats on Reddit with information on how to contact them in case anyone runs into a bat in need of help.

Some young pups have been found outside of businesses or curled up in homeowners' trees. Odegard said the majority of the bats who end up at the refuge got into a bit of trouble.

"It's a species really more than any other animal on the planet I think suffers from human persecution," Odegard said.

Texas has more than 34 different species flying around in the lone star state and a dozen who call Central Texas their home, including the infamous Mexico Free Tail bats that can be seen taking flight around the South Congress Bridge.

The Austin Bat Refuge's mission is to educate people and take care of the often misunderstood creatures of the night.

"Bringing that understanding of taking bats out of the darkness and show people how amazing they really are and how worthy and valuable they are to be cared for," Mackenzie said.

Over time, some bats become permanent residents like Gremy, a northern yellow bat who had some difficulties at birth.

"Well there's nothing wrong with him that keeps him from eating all the meal worms that he wants, but he doesn't fly well enough for release, and he's a wonderful education bat," said Odegard.

Although the furry pups can appear cute and cuddly, the Austin Bat Refuge recommends people don't pick up wild bats.

"It’s a real good way to get bitten, not because bats are aggressive but because any wild animal that gets frightened might bite," Odegard said.

Unfortunately, meal worms and cozy leaves don't come free. The nonprofit works on a shoestring budget and Odegard said they make ends meet with grant money and donations. In the future they'd like to expand their wings and hire workers to help care for the bats.

If you come across a bat in need of assistance give the Austin Bat Refuge a call at 512-799-8847. For more information go to their website.