Nature

Millions of Bats in Flight From Bracken Cave Captivate Visitors

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In a spectacle that darkens the skies overhead, millions of bats take flight from Bracken Cave near San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country, and families have made it an outing that’s not only entertaining but educational. The bats number so many, they even show up on Dopler Radar. Nearby military flights are re-routed due to the heights of their takeoff reaching upwards of 10K feet, 60 miles in any direction.

In each flight, this particular colony will eat 147 tons of bugs. In comparison, that’s more than the weight of three Boeing 747s combined! Reviewed by many an enthusiast on Trip Advisor, the comments remain positive, including: “This is perhaps the most amazing and massive movement of mammals one could experience. I believe you need to join Bat Conservation International (or be hosted by a member) to be admitted to this protected cave, but it is worth it if you like bats (or are willing to learn about them). Millions of bats leave the cave over the course of two or three hours, blackening the sky in streaks of black as they fly off to eat 14 tons of flying insects each night!”

YouTube/NBC News

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides all the details necessary to make a trip to a Bracken Cave bat flight viewing a successful one. They’ve posted information about the Mexican Free-tailed Bat, which is the type that takes flight out of the cave, covered its anatomy (in brief) in order that you better understand how they’re made up, and provide great tips on bat-watching etiquette. It’s all on one great web link available here. They also post Texas viewing sites, including Bracken Cave.

As noted in the Trip Advisor review above, membership in Bat Conservation International (which starts at $45) is, in fact, required to attend Member Nights for viewing. Reservations are also required in advance. The area is also handicapped accessible, and because Bracken Cave is owned by Bat Conservation International, they also provide a link to their website for further details and hours. With respect to children, Bat Conservation International advises: “Please use discretion if you are considering bringing young children. Because Bracken Cave is located in a natural, unimproved area, children need to be supervised at all times and cannot ‘run-free’– so keep this in mind when making your reservation.  Childcare services are NOT provided. Tours can last up to 4 hours and Texas summers are notoriously hot. We do not recommend bringing children under the age of 6 to Bracken for these reasons.” All bat viewing dates are also provided on this website, having been coordinated each year in the spring, making pre-planning a breeze. If you haven’t yet experienced such a fascinating natural wonder (so to speak,) consider obtaining a membership for regular visits. In the video above, one young visitor calls it “natural geographic in real life,” and that’s saying something!