100,000 Bats Fall from the Sky in Australia Due to Extreme Heat Wave

On the opposite side of the world from the 'polar vortex,' dangerously high temperatures are wreaking havoc.

In a scene that could come straight out of Alfred Hitchcock's imagination, about 100,000 bats were found littering the ground after a major heatwave hit Australia this week, causing the bats to fall from the sky and die upon impact. In addition to the bats, the heatwave—which struck the north-east state of Queensland earlier this week and hit temperatures as high as 135 degrees fahrenheit—meant mass deaths for the country’s flying foxes across an estimated 25 colonies.

“Anything over 43 degrees [celsius/ 109F] and they just fall,” Louise Saunders, a conservation worker, told The Courier Mail in Australia. “We’re just picking up those that are just not coping and are humanely euthanizing what we can…it’s a horrible, cruel way to die.”

Considering the number of fallen bats, and the vast space across which they’re scattered, health experts are doing their best to warn all residents not to touch the presumably dead creatures. Not all the bats died on impact and some residents have been treated for viruses transmitted through bites or scratches from the disabled bats. Already, at least 16 people have been receiving antiviral treatment after coming into contact with a bat that has seemed, initially, to be dead.

“Some bats may appear dead by they are not, and when people have attempted to remove them, they have been bitten or scratched,” Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr. Jeannette Young told APN. “If you find a bat, it is very important not to touch it because of the risk of infection with Australian bat lyssavirus.”

A secondary problem that has risen in the days since the heat wave first hit is the rancid smell from the rotting, uncollected carcasses. Residents have begun to complain about the smell, and authorities have dispatched additional garbage collectors to pick up the thousands of bodies that remain.

The news comes in the same week as a historic chill—dubbed a “polar vortex”—hit the midwest and eastern United States, making for the lowest temperatures on average in nearly 40 years. While climate change deniers used the big chill as fodder for thier unscientific views, taken together, the polar vortex and Australian heatwave signal an undeniable shift in the planet's temperature patterns, climate scientists agree. 


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Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.