New place to see Bracken bats set to open

Bat Cave to begin guided tours of night flights

Author: Tim Gerber , Reporter, tgerber@ksat.com
Published On: Apr 02 2012 10:18:24 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 03 2012 02:43:03 AM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

The Bracken Bat Cave is home to the world's largest colony of bats and it sits on 697 acres just 20 miles Northeast of San Antonio. Every year the cave serves as the summer home and nursery for millions of Mexican free-tailed bats.

Travis Wuest has seen the bats emerge from the Bracken cave numerous times but he's still excited by the sight every time.

"It is truly amazing. It is one of those natural experiences you really just have to see to believe," Wuest said.

Each spring millions of pregnant female bats migrate here from Mexico to give birth to their babies and raise them in the cave.

"The females will have one pup each in June and the population will double in June when the females all are having the babies," said Fran Hutchins, Manager of the Bracken Bat Cave.

Hutchins works for a group called Bat Conservation International. In the early 1990's the organization bought the land around the cave to protect it and the bats from development.

Thanks to a new partnership with Natural Bridge Caverns the cave will open to the public starting April 6.

Visitors will learn about the bats and their habitat before seeing them emerge from the cave.

Because there are millions of bats inside it can take up to four hours for all of them to get out. Once they do emerge they begin feeding on insects.

Many of those insects are considered pests by local farmers. A recent study estimates insect hunting bats save farmers about $3.7 million dollars.

"The colony here at Bracken will eat about 200 tons of insects every night when they go out to dinner," Hutchins said.

By opening the cave to the public, conservationists hope it will give people a new respect for these misunderstood winged creatures of the night.

"Hopefully through these tours we can raise awareness about the importance that bats play in the environment and to help people learn about them and hopefully promote education and conservation of bats and their habitat," Travis Wuest said.

Guided tours of the Bracken bat flights will be going on from April 6 all the way through the end of October.

The cost is $24.99 per person and will typically take three to four hours to complete the tour.

A portion of the proceeds goes to supporting the the conservation on the Bracken bat cave. To make reservations go to brackenbatflight.com.