Texas drought threatens Austin’s famous bat colony

Bracken bats heading out for the night.

Bracken Bat Cave in Austin, Texas is the summer home of the world’s largest urban bat colony.   Millions of Mexican free-tailed bats live in the cave.  At dusk each summer night, spectators can watch more than a million bats pour out of the caves.  The Enclycopedia Gothica lists this site as one of the top 13 places to go before you die (or afterwards).

Bracken Cave

But the worst one-year drought in the history of Texas now threatens this colony.  The extreme dry conditions have have dramatically reduced the numbers of insects.  The bats rely on those insects for food.  To cope, the bats now emerge from their cave before dusk so that they can travel farther to find food.  But by leaving the cave before sundown, the bats become easy prey for natural predators.  Some theorize that without sufficient food the bats will not produce offspring or that the pups will die.

At least some experts are optimistic that the Texas bats will rebound.  Texas A&M biologist Mike Smotherman says,

“These things are everywhere,” he said. “These are fantastically mobile animals designed to fly fast and go far distances.”
Smotherman said his studies show if bats don’t like the food or water, they just move somewhere else.
“Given a choice, they do have preferred foraging grounds, but they make annual migrations over thousands of miles and it’s hard to imagine they’re really stuck on one path,” he said. “My guess is they’re flexible enough and adaptable enough they can just deal with it.”

Source — USA Today

Bonus video —

I recommend turning the volume off on YouTube and instead, listen to the Birthday Party’s “Release the Bats.”

Bracken Bats photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenbooks/.

Bracken Cave photo courtey of http://www.flickr.com/photos/deegephotos/.

~ by siouxsielaw on October 6, 2011.

4 Responses to “Texas drought threatens Austin’s famous bat colony”

  1. This cave looks awesome. It is definitely on my must see list. I hope the bats are okay.

  2. Poor bats. As if they don’t have enough to worry about all ready.

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