Why do bats keep interrupting play at the AT&T Center, other than being big Spurs fans?

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Rob Garza - Photojournalist, Samuel Bayless Jr. - Editor

SAN ANTONIO - Bats have been stopping play at the AT&T Center and making sports headlines for over a decade.

One of the most famous moments was in 2009 when Manu Ginobili successfully swatted a bat off the court.

This season, bats stopped a play, and The Coyote, who came out dressed as Batman, successfully netted the winged creature. In response, the team and crowd went wild, including getting a smile out of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. 

Why do we see so many bats during the Spurs games, other than them just being big Spurs fans?

Laurie Brown, an invertebrate specialist at the San Antonio Zoo, explained why bats love the Alamo City and why there's an increase in bat sightings during basketball season.

Brown said it’s not just the AT&T Center that bats like to hang out at, it’s all of San Antonio. She said there is an increase in the city’s bat population, especially during basketball season, because it also happens to be bat season.

Brown said bats can fit into a hole the size of a nickel, so any dark, safe warm place is where you can find them.

“The AT&T Center, when the lights are out and there is nobody in there, it's just like a cave when you think about it,” Brown said. “It's dark. It's warm. It's safe. There is no predators.”

Brown said millions of bats migrate from Mexico to San Antonio from February to September. She said bats spend their winter months, which is considered their mating season, in Mexico. While they are in San Antonio, the bat population doubles because it's where they have their babies.

“They had their exotic vacation in Mexico, so they are pregnant when they come to San Antonio. It's a great place to raise a family,” Brown said.

Brown said the majority of the bats that we see in San Antonio are Mexican free-tailed bats. She said bats love San Antonio because of its proximity to Mexico, the warm climate and the number of places they have to nest during the day, which includes caves, bridges and highways. 

Brown said we need our bats and should let them flourish in the community because they play a very important role in our ecosystem, acting as a natural pesticide eating other insects.

“They are one of the front liners for eating lots of invertebrates. Usually, moths are prone to destroying crop lands, so bats save farmers billions of dollars a year to eat insects coming into those fields,” Brown said.

Brown said it's important to not come into contact with bats, because, like any other wild mammal, they can carry disease like rabies. She said anyone who comes into contact with a bat may need to get a rabies vaccine.

A Garcia Middle School student on Friday brought a dead bat to school in a bag that he found while on his way to school, Edgewood Independent School District officials said.

Officials said as soon as the school found out about the matter, they alerted animal control and the Metropolitan Health District. 

The district is awaiting lab results to determine the next step. The student was checked out by doctors. 

Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.