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 April 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 Bracken colony consumes tons of insects each night and plays an important role in pest control, helping farmers control moths, beetles and insects that destroy corn, cotton and other crops.
“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 group which owns and manages Bracken Cave site. “Our goal in opening tours to the public, is to teach more people the truth about bats and the critical need for conservation efforts.”
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) to manufacture black gunpowder, during the Civil War. The guano was later used as a rich fertilizer for croplands across the United States.
“Bracken Bat Flight” tours feature guided viewings several times a week, April through October. The tour begins at Natural Bridge Caverns with an educational briefing on bat species, behavior, and habitats prior to the flight viewing.
The cost per person is $24.99, with a portion of the proceeds supporting stewardship and conservation of the Bracken site. For more information and to make reservations, you can visit: www.brackenbatflight.com.
Bracken Cave is adjacent to Natural Bridge Caverns, southeast of New Braunfels, Texas.