Last updated on August 22, 1999
Housing between 20 and 40 million Mexican free-tailed bats during the peak summer months, Bracken Cave is one of the most fascinating places to bat enthusiasts the world around. Bat Conservation International (BCI) owns the cave, which is at a semi-secret location and is only accessible by crossing private property, and with permission. As members of BCI, my wife, our friends, and I were privileged to attend a special "members only" night to watch the bats emerge from their cave.
C., my wife, and Heather, our friend, in front of a field of cacti, before the emergence begins.
The bats spiral upward from the mouth of the cave, all going counter-clockwise probably to avoid flying into one another.
After ramping up in corkscrew formation, the bats fly onward and upward to catch the jet stream, which will carry them over 100 miles to tonight's feeding grounds.
Most of the sounds that bats emit for echo location are above our audible hearing range, but when a column of bats flies overhead the air sizzles with an almost electric popping noise. It's like listening to a huge bowl of Rice Crispies.
Most of the time the bats are too far away for you to hear their wings. But if one happens to be flying low and zips by your ear, you hear it whistle through the air just like a baseball bat.
There are so many bats inside Bracken Cave (between 20 and 40 million) that it takes hours for them all to fly out.