Bracken Cave: A bat lover’s dream

Late in August Ray and I had the opportunity to film at Bracken Cave. For those of you that find Bracken Cave unfamiliar, it is located just outside of San Antonio and is home to the world’s largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats!  An estimated 15 million bats call this cave home! Over the course of several days and one early 3 a.m. morning, we filmed the bats as they emerge to feed for the night and in the wee hours of the morning as they returned. To say this was a bat lovers dream is an understatement. During emergence the bats swarm into a spiral that extended into the sky until a stream of bats broke off from the spiral and faded into the distance. Standing under 15 million bats is an unforgettable experience. The noise projected from the beating of so many wings sounded as though a light rain was falling. The swarming bats also provided much need relief from the heat. Standing under the swarm we were fanned by the bats.

While observing the bats, we had the opportunity to become acquainted with other inhabitants of the cave. Diamondback rattlesnakes and coachwhips slither past on-lookers as they made their way towards the mouth of the cave. The coachwhips put on quite the show during our time at the cave, dangling from the cave entrance or nearby bushes with outstretched bodies trying to snatch bats from the swarm! A pair of fighting skunks stole the show the next evening.

Our purpose for filming at Bracken Cave is a simple one. Ray and I want to inform as many of you as possible about the wildlife Texas has to offer and why wildlife such as bats are such a vital part of our ecosystem. We are currently in the process of producing a segment over Bracken Cave for Bat Conservation International (BCI) and will update you on when and where you can view the segment. Until then, be on the lookout for more of our videos over Free-tailed bats on PBS .

-Jessie Story

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