World's Largest "Bat Flight" Opens for Public Tours Starting April 6
San Antonio, Texas – For the first time ever, Bracken Cave, summer home to the world’s largest bat colony, will be open for public tours. With millions of Mexican free-tailed bats living in the cave from March through October, Bracken Cave hosts one of the largest concentrations of mammals on earth. Guests will have the rare opportunity to see the emergence of this impressive colony from its natural cave roost, as they spiral out of the cave at dusk for their nightly insect hunt. The plume of bats is dense enough to show up on airport radar.
Bat Conservation International (BCI), working with Natural Bridge Caverns, has opened the “Bracken Bat Flight” tour to the public in 2012 to raise awareness of these amazing animals and their importance to our ecosystem during this, the International Year of the Bat. The earth’s only flying mammals, bats eat bugs, pollinate plants, and spread seeds. The bats of the Bracken colony consume tons of insects each night. Bats play an important role in pest control, helping farmers control moths, beetles and other insects that destroy corn, cotton and other crops. A recent study estimates insect-hunting bats save farmers more than $3.7 billion per year in reduced crop damage and pesticide needs.
“Negative myths and misinformation have generated needless fears that have threatened bats and their habitats for centuries,” said Nina Fascione, Executive Director of BCI, the Austin-based conservation group which owns and manages Bracken Bat Cave. “Our goal for opening the bat flights to the public is to teach more people the truth about bats and the critical need for conservation efforts.”
“We’re proud to partner with Bat Conservation International for this global celebration to honor all that bats do for the environment,” said Travis Wuest, whose family has owned the adjacent property of Natural Bridge Caverns for three generations. “I consider myself lucky to have grown up watching the bats at Bracken Bat Cave. I’m very excited to share this amazing experience with others.”
Fascione adds, “As a professional animal conservationist for over 25 years, I’ve observed animals in their natural habitat around the world?.I’ve never seen anything more amazing than the emergence at Bracken Bat Cave.”
The Bracken site has also played a notable role in Texas and U.S. history. Confederate soldiers mined the cave in the 1860s for guano (bat droppings). The ammonia-rich droppings supplied nitrates required for the manufacture of black gunpowder, which was used in enormous quantities during the Civil War. In later years, guano mined from Bracken and other Central Texas bat caves provided an especially rich fertilizer for croplands across the United States. A mineshaft used to quickly haul out the valuable fertilizer can be observed during the tour.
“Bracken Bat Flight” tours kick off on Friday, April 6 and feature guided viewings several times a week through October. The tour begins at Natural Bridge Caverns with an educational briefing on bat species, behavior, and habitats prior to the flight viewing. More information can be found at: www.brackenbatflight.com. The cost per person is $24.99, with a portion of the proceeds supporting stewardship and conservation of the Bracken Bat Cave. Space is limited to a set number of people for each tour; reservations can be made and tickets purchased online at: www.brackenbatflight.com. Bracken Bat Cave is adjacent to Natural Bridge Caverns, in northeast San Antonio, just past Garden Ridge.
Bat Conservation International (BCI) is devoted to conserving the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet. Founded in 1982, the organization has achieved unprecedented progress by emphasizing sustainable uses of natural resources that benefit both bats and people. www.batcon.org Discovered by a group of local college students in 1960, Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest known cavern system open for public exploration in the state of Texas, and has been designated as a United States National Natural Landmark. As one of the top attractions in Texas, Natural Bridge Caverns features underground tours, caving adventure tours, zip lines and other activities for a high energy, educational, fun and family-oriented experience. www.naturalbridgecaverns.com
Media Contact: Travis Wuest, 210.651.6101