Bracken Bat Cave could be surrounded by 3,800 new homes

Currently, closest home located about 1 mile away from entrance to cave

Author: Tim Gerber , Reporter, tgerber@ksat.com
Published On: May 16 2013 10:33:54 PM CDT   Updated On: May 17 2013 02:23:07 AM CDT
051613bats
SAN ANTONIO -

A proposed development near a local bat cave has some bat lovers going batty.

The planned development, known as the Crescent Hills subdivision, would potentially see thousands of new homes and commercial properties built in close proximity to the Bracken Bat Cave.

The cave is home to the largest colony of bats in the world according to Andrew Walker, executive director of Bat Conservation International.

Every night, 10 to 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the cave to hunt insects.

"We're not saying that he shouldn't be allowed to do anything, we just think the level of development should be much closer to what is out here now," said Walker.

Right now, the closest home to the cave is located about a mile away from the entrance to the cave.

If the development were to be built, dozens of homes would be built within 600 yards of the cave.

While there are already other housing developments in the area, Walker said those homes are built on 1 to 3 acre lots. The proposed development would have homes built on quarter acre lots.

"We just think this density, both for ecological reasons and also for what the city has been trying to do here over the years, is just an incompatible use," Walker said.

In addition to its close proximity to the bat colony, the proposed development would also sit on top of the sensitive Edward's Aquifer Recharge Zone.

Walker said the property is also a known nesting area for the federally protected Golden Cheeked Warbler.

The city of San Antonio and other public agencies have been working to protect land in that area from further development.

"This property that is proposed for development really is the hole in the donut of all that protected land," said Walker. "At that level of intense development, it's really as though all the houses that have been prevented from being built by this public investment of tax dollars are being transferred on to the private land."

Walker said the land earmarked for the development is directly in the flight path of the bats that would be attracted to the new homes and businesses.

"Right now, these bats fly over that area but they don't stop there, except for the juveniles learning to fly. Those street lights are going to bring in the insects and they're going to bring in the bats." Walker said. "They like manmade structures, so they're definitely going to come into contact with people."

With so many bats coming in contact with humans, Walker said there could be an increased exposure to rabies.

"In a population this size, there are certainly bats here with rabies and they'll be flying over these homes every day," Walker said. "So it's going to be a real headache, a real health headache for public agencies to have to be continually responding to people's issues here because these bats love buildings, they're going to get into people's houses."

The proposed development still has to go before the San Antonio Planning Commission for approval and would also need to be approved by the San Antonio City Council.

While the development is not up for discussion yet, Walker is urging bat lovers to attend the May 22 council meeting to have their voices heard on the issue.

KSAT 12 News reached out to the developer of the proposed project, Galo Properties, but no one returned our calls seeking comment.

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here.