2nd Annual ‘Fur Will Fly Fest’ Combines Music and Wildlife
By Emma Claire Ellis
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – Animal lovers came together March 23-24 at the Cherrywood Coffeehouse for a festival to raise money for two wild animal rehabilitation organizations.
The ‘Fur Will Fly Fest’ supported the Bill Hicks Wildlife Foundation and Austin Bat Refuge, which rely on donations to provide lifesaving care for injured wildlife.
Lynn Raridon, the director of the Bill Hicks Wildlife Foundation, started ‘Fur Fest’ in 2022, but added ‘Will Fly’ this year to recognize the addition of Austin Bat Refuge.
Over a dozen bands from different music genres performed at the festival, including Dallas-based indie-pop singer Alexandra, who plans to release an EP soon.
“I really wanted to play South By [Southwest] this year, in any capacity,” Alexandra said. “(My friend) said, ‘I’m gonna be booking this little showcase at Cherrywood if you wanna do that,’ and I said, ‘I’d love to do that, that sounds great!’”
Other performers included the Desert Mambas from Los Angeles, and Q-Tip Bandits from Boston.
In addition to the musical performances, guests could also meet and hold bats that rehabilitators Lee Mackenzie and Dianne Odegard from Austin Bat Refuge brought. The duo has saved bats for years, and said they currently receive at least one bat a day as March is the end of spring migration.
“The bats are moving back into town,” Mackenzie said. “Little bats are getting into trouble all over town.”
Bats stuck in buildings can get injured easily or become extremely dehydrated. Mackenzie said most bats are healthy after a few days of feeding and hydration, and can be released the following Friday or Saturday night by the South Congress Bridge.
He said bats are no more likely to harbor diseases than any other mammals. Mackenzie and Odegard consistently post new info on their website, such as what to do if you have a palm tree in your yard. These trees provide shelter for many yellowtail bats.
“As hard as we have tried to educate the public that bats are incredibly beneficial and not at all a danger to people,” Odegard said. “Bats still have kind of a bad reputation among the general public.”
She advised anyone who finds a bat to leave it alone and call Austin Bat Refuge right away at 512-695-4116, or 512-471-BATS (2287) for UT Environmental Health and Safety if on the UT campus. If it is necessary to move a bat, she said offering the bat a stick to grab onto is safer than attempting to pick it up.
The Bill Hicks Wildlife Foundation helps injured four-legged critters. Founded by friends of the comedian who died in 1994, the foundation honors his love of animals by saving as many as they can.
Raridon said raccoons are the group’s specialty.
“We want to share these resources so that every interaction people have with a wild animal is a positive one,” Raridon said. “So many people will call us up and say ‘so there’s a raccoon in my backyard,’ as if there is something wrong with that!”
Donations at the festival support the organization’s medical and feeding needs. Raridon said a bucket of raccoon milk, to feed orphaned raccoons, costs over $250. The organization uses two or three buckets a year.
The Kerman Family Foundation matched all donations from the event. After bands received their share, the two organizations split the remaining $1,700. Raridon said she looks forward to continuing the festival for years to come.
In case of a wild animal emergency, check out Texas Parks and Wildlife’s list of rehabilitators in every county.