Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Texas Week Continues: Going to Bat for Bats!

The sign at Bracken Cave (photo by Bob Brinkmann).
Texas Week continues on On the Brink!  For previous Texas week posts, see here and here.

One of the great things about the Texas karst landscape is that there are many caves scattered throughout the state.  These caves are home to many species of bats, many of which are migratory.

Due to the importance of bats to ecosystems, the ecology and cave scientific communities seek to preserve caves and protect the habitat of these important creatures.  We've seen a significant drop in bat populations in recent years due to habitat destruction and white nose syndrome, a disease plaguing bats in many caves in the eastern portion of North America.

The entrance to Bracken Cave (photo by Bob Brinkmann).
That is why conservation efforts of karst systems are so crucial to us.  Many of the bats are key pollinators and they also eat lots of bugs.

One Texas cave, Bracken Cave, is home to the largest bat colony in the world, according the Bat Conservation International.  You can read about the cave here.  Bat Conservation International focuses on cave and bat protection around the world.

In Texas, many volunteers have worked to protect Bracken Cave and the surrounding karst landscape.  In addition, they have built a viewing area where visitors (with permission of the managers of the cave) can watch the millions of bats enter and leave the cave in the morning and evening.  A big thanks to the folks at Bexar Grotto for showing me the cave.

If you've ever been to Austin, you are familiar with the bat bridge colonies that draw tourists from all over the world.

 You can see the video below of one of the flights.

Here is a video of bats leaving bracken cave:

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