AUSTIN — Most people would never consider a Mexican Freetail bat to be "cute."
But to Dianne Odegard, bats are beautiful.
At her Austin home, Odegard and Lee Mackenzie care for sick and injured bats found in a variety of places.
"An airport employee found him on the tarmac next to a plane and brought him to us," Odegard explained as she checked on one thumb-sized bat.
Odegard and Mackenzie have the odd job of being bat rehabbers with Bat Conservation International. They mend broken wings, feed them... even brush their teeth.
"Their teeth get tartar on them from a meal worm diet like this," Odegard said with a laugh.
The ultimate goal is to move recovered bats to a backyard enclosure where most learn to fly and hunt again.
Bats are vitally important when it comes to pollinating and destroying agricultural pests.
Their rehabilitation has taken on a pressing role as white nose syndrome — a deadly fungus responsible for killing millions of bats — marches across the country. The disease is responsible for the largest animal epidemic in recorded history.
"I think it's important to have someone on the ground who sees bats on a regular basis and can assess the health of bats that come in," Odegard said.
"I just feel so privileged to be able to take care of them, interact with them, look after them," Mackenzie added. "All the trouble they get into, I'd say 85 percent of it is caused by humans, so some humans ought to at least help them out."
For that reason (and many more), Lee Mackenzie and Dianne Odegard believe every bat is worth saving.