PHOENIX - We're used to seeing snakes and scorpions in the Valley... but bats?
This month up to 10,000 Mexican free-tailed bats will migrate to Arcadia from south of the border, give birth and live out the summer in a flood-control tunnel near 40th Street and Camelback Road, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
"It's just a really beautiful sight," said Angie McIntire, AZGFD's bat management coordinator.
"A tunnel like this that has some expansion seams in it -- [the bats] probably were flying through one day and saw that it would make a perfect home."
McIntire said Game and Fish learned of the tunnel's bat colony in the 1990s after people living nearby called the department. Bats have "a lot of fidelity to their home" and return every year, she said.
The department posted several signs on fencing around the tunnel, located off the Arizona Canal Trail, to educate passersby on bats in the state and the tunnel's colony. About 15 minutes before sunset, a "tester bat" will emerge followed by others as they leave for the night to find food. On any given night, McIntire said the bats will travel up to 20 miles one way to feed and can fly up to 100 miles per hour.
"They're just incredible... they're built like little jet airplanes," she said.
In late August or early September, most of the colony will return to Mexico. Mexican free-tailed bats can live for more than 40 years and females give birth to one baby each season.
According to the AZGFD, there are 28 different species of bats that live at least temporarily in the state. Arizona is the second most diverse state -- behind Texas -- for species of bats.
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