Learn about these amazing critters while watching San Antonio's very own colony of Mexican Free-tailed Bats emerge from under Camden Street bridge at 7:30 pm at the intersection of Camden and Newell streets. The bats roost under Interstate 35, you can bring a chair there during the summer months and hear a talk about the bats.
The San Antonio River Authority partners with Texas Parks and Wildlife and Bat Conservation International for an educational presentation every Tuesday until August 11.
For more info, you can contact Kayla Gasker at (210) 302-3259 or [email protected]
Although some may call them "rats with wings," bats are actually more closely related to primates than rodents. Bats are mammals. They are warm-blooded, have hair, bear live young and feed their babies milk.
The largest bat, the flying fox bat, can grow to the size of a Chihuahua with a 6-foot wingspan. Oh, don't worry, it eats fruit. The smallest bat is the bumblebee bat, which weighs less than a penny. The Mexican free-tailed bat, the San Antonio resident, is only about the size of two thumbs put together.
The millions of Mexican free-tailed bats at Bracken Bat Cave eat up to 200 tons of insects nightly. This can save farmers from using large amounts of pesticides.
Mexican free-tail guano is incredibly useful in the production of environmentally-friendly fertilizers and insecticides.
Bats actually have very low reproductive rates. However, one pup a year is an amazing feat in itself since baby bats weigh one-third of their mothers body weight. To put that into perspective, just imagine birthing a 40-pound human infant.
Baby bats roost together in impossibly tight clusters of up to 500 pups per square foot. Although every pup is nearly identical, mama bats can can locate their babies by keying in on their unique cries and scents.
Just like bees or butterflies, bats play a crucial role in preserving the local environment. Many plants, including those that produce bananas, mangoes, avocados, cashews, dates, figs and agave, rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.
Bats can actually see fine. They navigate at night using a unique type of sonar technique called echolocation. As they fly, Mexican free-tails emit a number of differing calls at frequencies between 25 and 75 kHz. The sound waves bounce off of nearby objects, namely bugs and obstacles, and travel back to the bats, providing them with the information that they need to be masterful hunters and navigators in the dead of night.
Confederate soldiers fighting in the Civil War harvested guano to produce saltpeter, the key ingredient in gun powder, after their ports were blockaded.
Bat guano is also an important indicator to scientists working to measure pollution and the effects of climate change. It helps microbiologists by giving them bacteria and enzymes that help produce things like detergent and antibiotic drugs. Guano is even used to convert industrial waste and its byproducts into safer materials.
Their streamlined, webbed bodies make them amazing athletes, allowing them to reach impressive flight speeds and distances, and fly higher than any other bat species on record. Mexican free-tails often ascend two miles to snack on bugs or to catch tailwinds.
Theyve been clocked flying at over 60 miles per hour. Moreover, Texas Parks and Wildlife reports that free-tailed bats travel as much as 100 miles in a single evening hunting for prey.
During World War II, Mexican free-tailed bats were the subject of a top-secret research program called Project X-Ray that aimed to destroy Japanese military capabilities without the use of a single, massive device. The goal of Project X-Ray was to use bats as carriers of tiny little incendiary devices that could be triggered simultaneously, creating seemingly spontaneous fires over a wide area.
These bat bombardiers were actually on the brink of going operational, but when escaped bats set fire to a friendly barracks and blew up a generals car during the final testing phase, Project X-Ray was canceled and the nuclear bomb took center stage.