Visit Bracken Cave Preserve - Bat Conservation International (2022)

An unforgettable site

Bracken Cave is the summer home of more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), making it the world’s largest bat colony and one of the largest concentrations of mammals on earth. The emergence of these millions of bats, as they spiral out of the cave at dusk for their nightly insect hunt, is an unforgettable sight.

From May through September, guests can expect to experience a tornado of bats emerging from the beautiful Texas hill country setting. Advanced reservations are required. Please read our Bracken Cave Preserve visitation FAQs.

If you are trying to book a group visitfor your club, troop, class or other organization, emailbracken@batcon.org.

The 2022 Bracken bat flight season is sold out.

The largest known bat maternity colony in the world

The bats of Bracken Cave comprise the largest known bat maternity colony in the world, producing millions of young each year. In March and April, expectant females return to Bracken after overwintering in Mexico, Central and South America. Most males roost elsewhere in smaller groups. In the latter part of June, females give birth to a single pup, nearly doubling the cave’s population.

After the bats give birth, the naked pups are left on cave walls in dense clusters called creches. These creches become densely packed, sometimes exceeding 400 pups per square foot. Babies roost separately from their mothers. The densely packed creches help keep the small, hairless pups warm while mom is out hunting. When the mother returns, she accomplishes a remarkable feat: she finds her own young among the millions of other pups through a combination of spatial memory, vocalizations, and scent. Mothers will visit the creche to nurse often during the day and return from feeding to nurse twice at night.

After four to five weeks, youngsters begin learning to fly under the most difficult of conditions. If all goes well on its first flight, a young bat drops into complete darkness, flies at a speed of at least 20 feet per second, and turns an almost complete somersault with millimeter precision to land on the cave wall just seconds after taking off. It must also avoid several collisions a second with thousands of other young fliers testing their skills, while at the same time relying on an echolocation system that is itself being tested for the first time.

Collisions with other bats or cave walls can be fatal. An emergency landing is certain death; the floor is teeming with millions of carnivorous dermestid beetles that can reduce a young bat to a cleaned skeleton within a few minutes. Fatalities are high, and at least half won’t survive their first year.

By late July, young bats are ready to test their flight skills outside the cave, joining their mothers to feed on insects. Although they are weaned soon after, their initial energy demands are high, forcing nursing mothers to consume nearly their body weight in insects each night. To find sufficient food, the bats often emerge up to three hours before sundown, creating one of the most spectacular sights in all nature, an eventspanning several hours.

Visitation FAQs

  • When can I visit Bracken Cave Preserve?

    The bats of Bracken Cave are migratory, so bat flights are only held during the summer months (May-Sept). Reservations are required.

    (Video) Bracken Cave Preserve

  • How do I schedule a visit to Bracken Cave Preserve?

    All visitors to Bracken Cave Preserve MUST make advanced reservations. Most bat flights are reserved for Bat Conservation International members (available to purchase starting at $45), but we do offer some bat flights to the general public. The bat flight schedule is generally posted on this page by March of each year, and will provide details on how and when to make a reservation.

    If you are interested in booking a private event or a group visit for your organization, please email bracken@batcon.org

  • Why isn’t Bracken open to the public to just stop by and go in?

    The cave is located on private property that is owned, managed and protected by Bat Conservation International. To best protect this sensitive area, we must restrict access to small, reserved groups.

  • Is there somewhere nearby where I can stop and watch the bats from my vehicle?

    The Mexican free-tailed bats that emerge from Bracken Cave Preserve quickly gain altitude and commonly fly at elevations of 3,000 to 10,000 feet. The bats are too high to see by the time they cross over the nearest streets.

  • I am a member. Am I guaranteed to be able to see a bat flight this summer?

    Bracken bat flights are extremely popular and fill up each year. For 2022, we increased the number of bat flights as well as the number of visitors who may attend each night so that more members had the opportunity to attend, but we cannot guarantee a visit. We recommend registering as early as possible. If the bat flights do sell out, check back frequently since spots do regularly show up as members cancel their reservations.

  • How long does the visit last?

    Plan to stay 2-3 hours depending on sunset.Please be on time.We cannot predict exact times when the bats will emerge, so we meet early enough so visitors have time before the emergence to learn about this important maternity colony.

  • I am a member.How many guests can I bring to a Member Bat Flight?

    Members supporting BCI with a $45 annual membership or those who have added an annual membership to an adopt-a-bat: up to 3 guests for a total party of 4, including the member.

    Members supporting BCI monthly or with a $60 annual membership: up to 5 guests for a total party of 6, including the member.

    (Video) Experience: Bracken Cave Preserve

  • I am a member. How often can I visit?

    Members can attend one Member Bat Flight at Bracken each season (1 Membership = 1 Member Bat Flight per year).

  • I am a member. Can I come to a public bat flight for free?

    The few public bat flights offered directly support maintenance of the preserve. We depend on this revenue and therefore cannot offer them for free, even if member nights have filled to capacity.

  • What are the best months to view the bats?

    July and August, because baby bats are born in June and begin flying in July; and days are longer which means more bat viewing time.

  • Can I leave early if I have something important to do?

    Please be prepared to stay the entire 3 hours if you make a reservation with us. Arrangements can be made to leave early; please check with your guide upon arrival.

  • Where is the cave?

    Turn left at Bracken Cave Road – look for the “BCI Event” sign.

    Visit Bracken Cave Preserve - Bat Conservation International (1)

  • If I am disabled, will I be able to make it to the cave?

    We make every effort to accommodate guests of various ability, however Bracken Cave Preserve is a natural area. Pathways are not paved and can be uneven. We park persons with mobility needs as close as possible to the viewing area, but there is approximately 100 yards of mulched pathway between the closest parking or drop off and the viewing area. If you are concerned about your specific needs, please contact us ahead of time atbracken@batcon.org. Please let your guide know at check-in if you will be needing accommodation.

  • How far do I have to walk?

    Approximately ½ mile on gravel trails.Please consider physical limitations and the Texas summer heat when planning your trip.

    (Video) Mexican Free Tail Bat Facts! Bracken Cave Preserve Visit With Bat Conservation International!

  • Can I bring alcohol?

    No alcohol is permitted.

  • Can I bring my dog (pet)?

    No, only trained service animals as defined by the ADA are permitted to enter the Preserve. Additionally, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or of the animal is not housebroken, the handler will be required to remove the animal from the premises. Additionally, it is too hot to leave any animal in your car.

  • Can I bring my baby or young kids?

    Please use discretion if you are considering bringing young children. Because Bracken Cave is located in a natural, unimproved area, children need to be supervised at all times and cannot “run-free”– so keep this in mind when making your reservation.Childcare services are not provided. Visits can last up to 4 hours and Texas summers are notoriously hot. We do not recommend bringing children under the age of 6 to Bracken for these reasons.

  • Can I smoke on the property?

    No. Electronic cigarettes/vapes are also prohibited.

  • Can I bring a chair?

    Chairs are not needed as there are benches.

  • Can I bring a snack?

    Small snack foods are fine, but please, no coolers. Food attracts unwanted visitors, like fire ants and skunks.

  • What do I wear?

    Comfortable clothes and closed-toed shoes. Please keep in mind the heat.

  • What should I bring?

    Cameras (please no flash photography), binoculars, sunscreen, bug repellant, and bottled water (again, no coolers please).

    (Video) Visit Bracken Cave - the summer home of the world's largest bat colony.!

  • Are there bathrooms?

    There is a unisex port-a-potty with hand sanitizer.

  • It’s the weekend and no one is answering my emails or phone calls. Why?

    Please keep in mind that BCI is not open on the weekend, thus reservation requests and questions are not processed until the following week.

  • Will my car make it in on the roads to the cave?

    Roads leading to the cave are rough and dusty. You may need to wash your car after your trip to Bracken but other than that, you should be fine.

    Motorcycles are not allowed on the preserve. Their noise disturbs the wildlife.

    Motor homes and RV’s are not allowed on the preserve, as the roads are rough and parking is limited.

  • Can we camp overnight?

    Overnight camping can be arranged for scouting and educational groups (fee applies). Please contact bracken@batcon.org

  • Can I carry my handgun on site?

    No. Visitors are not permitted to bring firearms of any kind onto Bracken Cave Preserve.

  • Bracken Cave Preserve and COVID-19

    Masks or COVID-19 vaccinations are not required to visit Bracken Cave Preserve. Bat flights are outdoors and there is plenty of room for physical distancing. Visit https://www.batcon.org/bats-covid-19-updates/ for information on Bats and COVID-19.

FAQs

What time do the bats come out at Bracken Cave? ›

The emergence of these millions of bats, as they spiral out of the cave at dusk for their nightly insect hunt, is an unforgettable sight. From May through September, guests can expect to experience a tornado of bats emerging from the beautiful Texas hill country setting. Advanced reservations are required.

How many bats are in Bracken Cave? ›

Bracken Cave, on the northern outskirts of San Antonio, is home to the world's largest bat colony, with more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats.

What city is known for bats? ›

ANN W.

Texas reigns supreme for bat viewing. It boasts the world's largest urban bat colony. Austin, the “bat capital of the United States,” is famous for its bridge-dwelling bats; 1.5 million free-tailed bats live in crevices under the Congress Avenue Bridge.

What country has the largest population of bats? ›

Bracken Cave is the summer home to the largest colony of bats in the world. An estimated 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost in the cave from March to October making it the largest known concentration of mammals. The cave is located in southern Comal County, Texas, outside the city of San Antonio.

Can you go in a bat cave? ›

It may sound like a thrilling adventure to visit caves full of hibernating bats — which, just like Batman's Batcave, are largely hidden from the public eye. But venturing inside of bats' dark homes is actually incredibly dangerous to the bats — especially those suffering from white-nose syndrome.

What is the best time to see the bats in Austin? ›

The best time to witness the bats is around sunset, but the nightly show can take place anywhere from 7:30 to 9:45 p.m. It can take as long as 45 minutes for all of the bats to exit the bridge for the night. Plan to arrive early in order to find parking and get your spot.

What time do the bats come out in San Antonio? ›

Between 1,500 and 3,000 bat enthusiasts are expected to gather near the Camden Street Bridge on the Museum Reach from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to watch the cloud of Mexican free-tail bats embark to feast on the city's plentiful bugs and insects. The colony is expected to emerge during sunset between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

What are bat caves called? ›

The place a bat lives is called its roost. Bats need different roosting conditions at different times of the year and they will often move around to find a roost that meets their needs. Some bats prefer hollow trees, some like caves and some use both at different times.

What time bats fly? ›

Bats are the most active at night between the hours of dusk to dawn. As night approaches, bats begin to increase their activity. They will start flying around their cave and then leave in search of food and water. Bats will typically feed for about an hour or two, rest for a bit, then feed again before daybreak.

What do bats eat? ›

Bats are the most significant predators of night-flying insects. There are at least 40 different kinds of bats in the U.S. that eat nothing but insects. A single little brown bat, which has a body no bigger than an adult human's thumb, can eat 4 to 8 grams (the weight of about a grape or two) of insects each night.

How do I see bats? ›

Top bat-spotting tips
  1. Choose a dark area. Many bats avoid bright street lighting and prefer to fly in the dark, so try to find a location with as little light pollution as possible. ...
  2. Arrive just before the sun sets. ...
  3. Watch the water. ...
  4. Go out on a dry, still night. ...
  5. Choose a good spot.

Where are most bats in the world? ›

The only places on Earth with no bats are the Arctic, Antarctic and a few isolated Oceanic islands. The tropics have the biggest variety of bat species: Indonesia has 175 species of bats (about ten times the number of species found in the UK).

How many bats are on earth? ›

How Many Bats Are There in the World? Statistics indicated that bats are the second most populous mammals after rodents. This means that there could be up to one billion bats worldwide.

Why do we need bats? ›

The importance of bats

Bats play an essential role in pest control, pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. Recent studies estimate that bats eat enough pests to save more than $1 billion per year in crop damage and pesticide costs in the United States corn industry alone.

Which city has the most bats? ›

The Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world.

What do you wear to cave exploring? ›

Because caves are typically cold, you should plan on wearing layers of warm clothes, including long underwear. Cavers should avoid wearing any type of clothing made of cotton because it absorbs and holds more water than synthetic materials and will make you cold more rapidly.

What happens if you run out of light in a cave? ›

Wandering around in a cave without a light source is a recipe for disaster. You will almost surely fall, smash into something hard (stalactite, rock face), become completely disoriented, or otherwise be in worse shape than you were before you wandered.

How big is the Bat Cave? ›

The 186-acre (75 ha) Bat Cave Preserve was setup in response to that popularity and help protect the endangered Indiana bats as well as several other species of bats that inhabit the cave.

Do the bats fly every night in Austin? ›

The bats do continue to fly out every single night, but some nights they are very difficult to see. By the first week of November, the bats have begun to migrate, for it is starting to get cold and there is low visibility. Every morning, the bats return to the bridge about 30 minutes before sunrise.

Where do you park to watch the bats in Austin? ›

Austin Bats Parking

The most convenient parking lot is right next to the bridge near the Austin American-Statesman office at 305 South Congress Avenue. The fee is $7 for up to four hours. If you don't mind walking, though, there is a free lot about 1/4 mile to the west next to the South 1st Street bridge.

Do the bats still come out in Austin? ›

The Austin bats nightly departure is seasonal. They fly South for the winter like their feathered friends. They usually arrive in early March and leave in late October after the first cold snap hits. As climate change leads to warmer weather, they are slowly arriving earlier and sometimes arrive in late February.

Why are there so many bats in San Antonio? ›

Texas hill country Region

The colony's close proximity to the water of the San Antonio River gives the bats an open area to glide through when they emerge for their nightly feedings of agricultural pests.

Do bats come out every night? ›

Bats are largely nocturnal, meaning they are most active after sundown. Specifically, little brown bats emerge from their dark roosts two-to-three hours after dusk to feed. After feeding, they return to their roosts to sleep out the rest of the night and day hanging upside down.

How many bats are in San Antonio? ›

SAN ANTONIO – The world's largest bat colony can be found at Bracken Cave, just 20 minutes outside the city of San Antonio. Every June, the Mexican free-tailed bats at Bracken Cave give birth to one pup each, bringing the total population up to about 20 million bats.

What lives in a cave? ›

Animals that have completely adapted to cave life include: cave fish, cave crayfish, cave shrimp, isopods, amphipods, millipedes, some cave salamanders and insects.

How do bats sleep in caves? ›

Because of their unique physical abilities, bats can safely roost in places where predators cannot get them. To sleep, bats hang themselves upside down in a cave or hollow tree, with their wings draped around their bodies like cloaks. They hang upside down to hibernate and even upon death.

Do bats like light? ›

Bats don't like light. Although they don't rely too much on their poor sight, they can see, and they prefer dark areas. This is why bats are notorious for roosting in caves. Because you lose a little light with each bend in a cave, you'll often find them roosting deep within, but that's only the case in nature.

Do bats fly in the rain? ›

To answer your second question, bats are the only mammals that fly, and, according to Bat Conservation International, bats will fly in the rain. However, the high humidity that comes with rain can affect the movement of sounds through air, so bats might have more of a problem flying then.

Where do bats sleep at night? ›

Their roosts could be in trees, caves, bridges, mines, buildings, rock crevices, and places that are up high, away from predators, and dark, but depending on the bat species that will determine the habitat and roost they inhabit.

Are bats blind? ›

No, bats are not blind. Bats have small eyes with very sensitive vision, which helps them see in conditions we might consider pitch black. They don't have the sharp and colorful vision humans have, but they don't need that.

Do bats drink water? ›

Bats also live close to a source of water to drink at the same time, something that many people do not realize. They actually drink quite a lot of water, and this is even more so if the bat is a pregnant or breastfeeding one. They require a much higher water intake because of the increased stress on the body.

Do bats bite you? ›

Bats do not bite unless they are provoked. Even the occasional rabid bat seldom becomes aggressive. However, since bats are a rabies vector species in most places and, like all wild animals, can bite to defend themselves, it is crucial to take all necessary precautions to avoid a potential exposure to the virus.

Can a bat hurt you? ›

Don't handle bats unless you are trained in handling them, are using appropriate personal equipment and are vaccinated against rabies. Most bat bites and scratches in Queensland occur when people try to help sick or injured bats as they are difficult to handle, they become agitated and they have sharp teeth and claws.

Are bats good to eat? ›

Bats are regularly hunted and consumed in Oceania, and are the only native land mammals of many isolated islands. About 23% of Oceania's bat species are hunted, or 40 species. Bat meat is considered a delicacy in the Cook Islands, Niue, Guam, the Mariana Islands, and Samoa.

Why do bats fly at your head? ›

If a bat flies near or toward your head, it is probably hunting insects that have been attracted by your body heat.

How tall is the biggest bat? ›

The golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) is a fruit-eating megabat found only in the Philippines. It is one of the planet's largest bat species, with a wingspan up to 5 feet 6 inches long and a weight of up to 2.6 pounds.

Do bats fly during the day? ›

So, yes, some bats do fly during the day. However, this is more of an exception than a rule, and the vast majority of bats are quite content to keep their hunting and foraging activities restrained to hours of the day that are dimly lit or completely dark altogether.

Are bats friendly? ›

They are only aggressive when they're frightened or provoked. While you should always treat any bat you come into contact with as a wild animal, they are gentle.

Why are bats called bats? ›

Middle English had bakke, most likely cognate with Old Swedish natbakka ("night-bat"), which may have undergone a shift from -k- to -t- (to Modern English bat) influenced by Latin blatta, "moth, nocturnal insect". The word "bat" was probably first used in the early 1570s.

Do bat bites bleed? ›

Bat bites are often felt and not seen, and may not bleed or leave an obvious mark on the skin. After contact with a bat, it is important to: wash the area of any bite or scratch with soap and water immediately.

Can we live without bats? ›

Although many people misunderstand them, bats are something we can't do without. They are the only major predator of night flying insects. One bat can eat between 600 to 1,000 mosquitoes and other flying pests in just one hour!

Why do we protect bats? ›

Bats play an important role in many habitats around the world. Some tropical plants depend partly or wholly on certain bat species to pollinate their flowers or spread their seeds, while many bats, including all British species, help control insects by feeding on them.

What kind of animal is a bat? ›

What are they? Bats are mammals belonging to the order Chiroptera, a name of Greek origin meaning "hand-wing," which accurately describes the animal's most unusual anatomical feature.

Do bats live in trees? ›

Bats can be found in almost all parts of the world and in most regions of the United States. In general, bats seek out a variety of daytime retreats such as caves, rock crevices, old buildings, bridges, mines, and trees. Different species require different roost sites.

How do you make a bat house? ›

How to Build a Bat House - YouTube

How common are bats in houses? ›

Most of the people that call us have had at least two or three instances of bats in the house over the last few years though. Multiple bats in your house is a very strong indication of an infestation.

What time bats fly? ›

Bats are the most active at night between the hours of dusk to dawn. As night approaches, bats begin to increase their activity. They will start flying around their cave and then leave in search of food and water. Bats will typically feed for about an hour or two, rest for a bit, then feed again before daybreak.

What do bats of Bracken in Texas eat? ›

They eat tons of insects in a single night, including many pests that eat farmer's crops. And they get rid of mosquitoes, too.

How many bats live in Carlsbad Caverns? ›

The size of the colony fluctuates from night to night and season to season. Between 200,000 and 500,000 bats call the cave home over the summer, swelling to over one million during migration.

Are there bats in Natural Bridge Caverns? ›

After visiting Natural Bridge Caverns and experiencing the wonders of our caverns, more than 15 million bats all emerging at once in a swirling cloud of insect-eating prowess, flying across the picturesque Texas dusk truly is something you should – hang around – for.

Do bats like light? ›

Bats don't like light. Although they don't rely too much on their poor sight, they can see, and they prefer dark areas. This is why bats are notorious for roosting in caves. Because you lose a little light with each bend in a cave, you'll often find them roosting deep within, but that's only the case in nature.

Do bats fly in the rain? ›

To answer your second question, bats are the only mammals that fly, and, according to Bat Conservation International, bats will fly in the rain. However, the high humidity that comes with rain can affect the movement of sounds through air, so bats might have more of a problem flying then.

Where do bats sleep at night? ›

Their roosts could be in trees, caves, bridges, mines, buildings, rock crevices, and places that are up high, away from predators, and dark, but depending on the bat species that will determine the habitat and roost they inhabit.

What are bat caves called? ›

The place a bat lives is called its roost. Bats need different roosting conditions at different times of the year and they will often move around to find a roost that meets their needs. Some bats prefer hollow trees, some like caves and some use both at different times.

What time do the bats come out in San Antonio? ›

Between 1,500 and 3,000 bat enthusiasts are expected to gather near the Camden Street Bridge on the Museum Reach from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to watch the cloud of Mexican free-tail bats embark to feast on the city's plentiful bugs and insects. The colony is expected to emerge during sunset between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

How many bats are in Texas? ›

Of the 33 species of bats known to live in Texas, 11 can live near humans and transmit rabies. Six species of colonial bats are known to occupy structures in Texas: Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) Cave myotis (Myotis velifer)

What month do bats return to Carlsbad Caverns? ›

Children watch bats return to Carlsbad Cavern at dawn. Hundreds of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats call Carlsbad Cavern home from April through October. It's tradition to watch their mass exodus from the cavern each evening.

What time do the bats fly out at Carlsbad Caverns? ›

Each evening during the summer, Brazilian free-tailed bats emerge from Carlsbad Cavern in search of food. The Bat Flight Program begins at 6:45 pm. Check at the visitor center for updates.

What should I wear to Carlsbad Caverns? ›

A light jacket or long-sleeved shirt is recommended. The trails and cavern features are electrically lit, but bring a flashlight if you'd like. Some areas of the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails are wet from natural water drips and steep.

How long is the cave tour at Natural Bridge Caverns? ›

The Discovery Tour lasts approximately 75 minutes and boasts the largest rooms in the caverns, one the size of a football field. The Hidden Passages Tour lasts approximately 70 minutes and features dramatic lighting and a total darkness experience.

Do you need tickets for Natural Bridge? ›

It has also been designated a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Bridge Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for kids ages 6-12. Children 5 and under are free. Gates are open from 8: a.m. until dusk.

Is Natural Bridge worth seeing? ›

The bridge is natural but everything else about the site is man made. You enter through a huge visitors center with lots of things to buy. The only way you can get a glimpse of the landmark is to pay a fee and walk down man made steps to the viewing set.

Videos

1. Experience Bracken Cave 360
(Bat Conservation International)
2. Bracken Bat Cave FlyThrough
(Bat Conservation International)
3. Fly through Bracken Cave like a bat!
(Bat Conservation International)
4. Residents of Bracken Cave: Hawks
(Bat Conservation International)
5. Residents of Bracken Cave: Snakes
(Bat Conservation International)
6. Bracken Cave - Mexican free tailed bats August 2022
(Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative)

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