Watch millions of bats take flight at Bracken Cave Preserve


“Bats only beyond this point.” | 📸 : @ya_lo_issay

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While Austin may be known as Bat City, did you know that San Antonio has its own reputation with this fang-tastic creature?

Just 25 miles from the Alamo City, you can watch 15 million Mexican Freetail bats soar into the evening sky — making it the world’s largest-known bat colony.

🦇 Bracken Cave Preserve

Owned by Bat Conservation International (BCI), Bracken Cave Preserve is located near Natural Bridge Caverns. Typically closed to the public during the majority of the year, the preserve opens its property during the summer months as this is the time the bats become migratory. BCI also works with other Texas organizations to protect the natural resources + wildlife that live here. In the future, BCI hopes to open Bracken Cave to the public as a permanent location for educational opportunities on the bats and other forms of life in the area.

🦇 The bat colony

What makes Bracken Cave so unique is that this female maternity colony produces millions of pups each year (Picture: 400 per sqft). You might be thinking “Isn’t Austin the world’s largest bat colony?” The answer is it’s the largest in an urban setting, giving birth to 750,000 pups per year.

The migratory season begins in March-April for these female bats. At the end of June, they start to give birth, multiplying the population in the cave rapidly. July + August is the perfect time to watch the young bats join their mothers in hunting food and testing their flight skills outside the cave.

🦇 Interesting facts about the colony

  • After the bat gives birth, the mother leaves the pup on cave walls in dense clusters called creches.
  • Because of the millions of newborn babies packed in the cave, they find their young by spatial memory, vocalizations + scent.
  • Young bats are ready to learn to fly four to five weeks after being born.
  • A successful first flight consists of a young bat dropping into complete darkness and flying for a few seconds at a speed of at least 20 ft per second.
  • Collisions are common between newborn bats, making fatalities high.

🦇 How to watch

To view the bats in action, one must purchase tickets in advance on BCI’s website. Reservations often sell out, but there’s still an opportunity to watch them by becoming a BCI member.

If you can’t catch this year’s bat season at Bracken Cave, here are three other places to visit near San Antonio.

Camden St. Bridge, San Antonio

Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve, Mason County

Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin

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