Although most people feel a certain disgust at the thought of seeing a bat, they are truly remarkable creatures and woefully misunderstood.
Many bat species around the world are in decline and even endangered. Bat biologists and conservationists worldwide are leading campaigns toward a greater understanding of bats’ important role in our ecology and economy.
The biologists behind Bat Conservation International (BCI) advocate for the role of bats as pivotal in worldwide pest control, pollination of vital plants, and creators of a rich fertilizer developed by their guano. They acknowledge that without bats, many tropical and desert ecosystems would collapse.
For those who find bats fascinating, here are some places where you can see and learn more about bats.
Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, TX
The Congress Avenue Bridge is a perfect bat cave and is home to millions of Mexican free-tailed bats who put on a terrific show for residents and visitors each night at dusk as they emerge from their roost. Thousands of people descend upon the Statesman Bat Observation Center adjacent to the bridge near sunset from March through early fall.
Bracken Cave Perserve outside San Antonio, TX
Just 20 minutes northeast of San Antonio, 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost in Bracken Cave and have their young. Owned and preserved by the organization Bat Conservation International, they’ve developed bat walks that are now spreading across the country so people can better understand bats.
Millie Mine near Iron Mountain, Michigan
Within an old iron mine shaft that drops 360 feet underground resides one of the largest bat populations in the U.S. The mine opening is nothing more than a hole in the grass, and it is covered with a grate to prevent people from falling in it. Onlookers can observe multiple species of bats as they fly out at dusk from an observation deck.
Orient Mine in Saguache, Colorado
Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL
Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, New Mexico
Nickajack Cave in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Yolo Basin Causeway near Davis, California
Following a presentation on bat history, groups of visitors are taken to watch the “flyout” of the largest colony of free-tailed bats in California. Birdwatchers also frequent this nature preserve, searching for waterfowl, migratory birds, and raptors who make this wildlife area home.
Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel west of Phoenix, Arizona
Mexican free-tailed bats have been returning to this roost just west of Phoenix since the 1990s. Bats start to return in March. The full colony usually returns by June.
The best times for viewing are June – August, but bats can also typically be seen as early as March and as late as October. The time of emergence is usually just before sunset. The bats roost in crevices in the eastern and western ends of the tunnel. They have returned annually to the Phoenix tunnel since the late 1990s. Each night in the summer months, these Mexican free-tailed bats fly out and eat moths and agricultural pests.
Bat Bridges in Tucson, AZ
Tucson has at least 18 different species of bats living in and around Tucson. The bridges in Tuscon, Arizona provide excellent roosts for bats. Species such as Mexican free-tail, Big Brown, Canyon, Pallid, Cave myotis, California myotis, and Yuma myotis are the most common species found roosting under bridges Tucson.