BRAZOS VALLEY, TX — Last week’s winter storm has taken the lives of wild animals throughout Texas. Scientists observed that the Brazos Valley was mostly spared from high mortality rates, but state researchers would still like the public's help in collecting data on local animals.
In the wake of winter storm Uri, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department [TPWD] reported a spike in deaths and injuries for animals such as coastal fish, birds, and bats. Thankfully, most of the Brazos Valley has not been a source of winter carnage, as far as biologists can observe.
"We lost some individual animals from a lot of different species," said Billy Lambert, a biologist for TPWD. "But all of our indigenous, native species around here have adapted to these sort of climatic changes."
The most significant loss reported so far to Lambert and his TPWD colleagues has been that of bats under a bridge in Milano, Milam County. Approximately 3,000 bats from a colony of 5,000 were found dead following the freeze.
"It was a pretty significant amount," Lambert commented. "There are still plenty of live bats in the overhang, but we did lose a bunch.”
The website iNaturalist.org is being used by TPWD to take reports of deceased animals from the public. Already, at least ten people in the Brazos Valley have submitted reports and photos of dead birds and bats. Dr. Sarah Hamer of the Schubot Center for Avian Health at Texas A&M said, that Aggieland has seen an influx of migratory species such as red-breasted robins, who, this year have come down south in greater numbers.
Hamer suggested that birds already weary from migratory travel might have a disadvantage when fighting inclement weather.
“We already have this overabundance of birds, called an eruption - a natural phenomenon that happens every so often," Hamer explained. "But on top of that, we have the really severe weather from last week with the storm. And because of that, I think it’s very normal that we’re seeing a little bit more bird mortality than [we] would otherwise normally notice in our backyards.”
Both Dr. Hamer and Lambert predicted that the winter storm should not have a negative long-term impact on any local bird species. Animals of invasive or non-native species did, however, have a rougher go of it in the Brazos Valley region.
"Some of the local landowners have exotic, undulate species," Lambert noted. "... Axis deer took a pretty hard hit. Blackbuck antelope, aren’t adapted to cold at all, so we lost a lot of those,”
Lambert said that fish, insects, vegetation, and mammals that are native to Texas should also continue to thrive. TPWD advises that anyone who spots a deceased wild animal outdoors should not touch the animal. However, TPWD advises that they take photographs of that animal, and submit them to the website iNaturalist.org. State researchers will be collecting that data to monitor the effects of storm Uri.