Archive for the 'Bats' Category

Bat Flights at Kickapoo Caverns State Park

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Enjoying the nightly fight of bats at Kickapoo Caverns State Park.

This is Passport to Texas

One of the least understood, but most fascinating, mammals in Texas is the Mexican free tail bat.

Most of us know of this small, brown flying animal because of the bat bridge in downtown Austin, which boasts the largest urban bat colony in North America.

The bats arrive in March, and through late summer, as the sun goes down, up to 1.5 million of them spiral into the darkening sky, heading east to farmers fields for their fill of insect pests. Their nightly emergence draws hundreds of spectators.

No less impressive—but in a more picturesque setting—is a colony of up to a million Mexican free tail bats that come to roost each spring at Stuart Bat Cave at Kickapoo Cavern State Park near Bracketville.
The bats migrate to the cave in mid-March, and usually stay through the end of October. Bat flights are stunning, and with an entrance permit, visitors can experience the majesty of their nightly emergence.

From time-to-time, visitors have remarked that a bat flew into them, bounced off and kept flying…on their way to dinner…with no harm done.

Find more information about Kickapoo Caverns State Park and Stuart Bat cave at Texasstateparks.org.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

How a Fungus May Spread Among Bats

Thursday, May 4th, 2017
Fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome discovered in six Caves in the Texas Panhandle.

Fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome discovered in six Caves in the Texas Panhandle.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas has the highest diversity of bats in the nation: 33 documented species in 4 families.

And [Texas] is where a lot of eastern and western bats comingle.

That’s a problem, says mammologist Jonah Evans, now that the fungus that causes the bat killing disease White Nose Syndrome was discovered this year in six Panhandle counties.

The other big concern is our Mexican Free-tailed bats, because they migrate and do not hibernate, they are not expected to suffer the same level of catastrophic impacts from the fungus. However, because they don’t die when they are exposed to the fungus—potentially—that would make them even better at spreading it. It is sort of a bat Armageddon situation.

Mexican Free-tail bats migrate in huge numbers across the Americas, creating concern they may spread the fungus.

When really susceptible species get the fungus, usually about 80 percent of the mortality happens in the first year that the disease turns up. What that tells us is that we have to be very proactive on the front end. We have to really start doing something soon. If we wait, we’re going to be trying to treat these stragglers that are left over, and the bulk of the population will be lost.

Researchers continue searching for treatments and cures. Find information about White Nose Syndrome, and decontamination protocol for cavers, on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

A Fungus is Finally Among Us

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017
Locations where fungus detected.

Locations where fungus detected.

This is Passport to Texas

The fungus that causes White nose Syndrome, a disease that affects hibernating bats was detected for the first time in Texas earlier this year. Texas Parks and Wildlife mammologist, Jonah Evans says it may have been present for up to a year…

… but at levels too low to detect. So, when you look at the maps of the spread of the fungus across the united States, those maps are always going to be behind where the disease actually is.

Researchers discovered six caves in six Panhandle counties with the fungus.

These are locations where we had previously identified as the most likely for the fungus to turn up first. And sure enough, it did. And so, we had expected to see the disease and the fungus to slowly move across Oklahoma towards Texas. For me, personally, it was a bit of a surprise to have it suddenly one year we go there and it’s all over the place.

For the past six years, the caves in question have come up clean when surveyed.

Likely, it came in at extremely low levels first, and slowly spread. And then, one winter’s worth of growth of the fungus in all of these sites suddenly put it over that threshold where we are now able to detect it.

Find more information on White Nose Syndrome in bats, and decontamination protocol if you go caving, on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Benefit of Bats to Agriculture

Thursday, March 16th, 2017
A Hygieostatic Bat Roost located off Farm to Market Road 473 east of Comfort, Texas, United States was built in 1918. The roost was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1981 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 28, 1983.

A Hygieostatic Bat Roost located off Farm to Market Road 473 east of Comfort, Texas, United States was built in 1918. The roost was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1981 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 28, 1983.

This is Passport to Texas

Farmers know how costly it can be to spray crops with insecticides to prevent pest damage. What some may not know is…bats can be partners in pest eradication.

The Mexican free tail bat, in particular, is really valuable for agricultural purposes.

Meg Goodman is a former Parks and Wildlife’s bat biologist.

Current research has shows that these bats can save farmers up to two sprays of pesticides per year because of all the insect pests that they’re eating, like the corn earworm moth and the cotton boll worm moth, among other crop pest species.

In the early 20th century, San Antonio physician Charles A. Campbell designed and tested artificial roosts to attract bats to eat mosquitoes blamed for the spread of malaria. Eventually Campbell developed a bat tower, which he installed at Mitchell Lake, south of the city, which attracted hundreds of thousands of the flying mammals. The spectacle of the bats’ nightly emergence drew spectators in the 1920s…as it does today, wherever bats roost.

Their numbers and nightly emergences bring in a lot of tourist dollars to a lot of smaller communities—and big communities like Austin… It’s one of our top tourist destinations. But they do provide a lot of tourist dollars through nature tourism through a lot of our smaller communities throughout the state.

Learn how to attract bats at passporttotexas.org. That’s our show…we receive support from the Wildlife Restoration program.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Don’t Fear Bats

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017
Bats emerge from their roost at Kickapoo Cavern State Park

Bats emerge from their roost at Kickapoo Cavern State Park

This is Passport to Texas

Despite improved public relations, people remain—if not terrified—then at least apprehensive of bats.

A lot of people fear bats because of a lot of myths and superstitions associated with them.

Meg Goodman, former Parks and Wildlife’s bat biologist, says bats will not purposely entangle themselves in your hair, nor will they attempt to suck your blood.

We do a lot of work to get the message across that bats are actually very, very beneficial for us, and they’re very gentle creatures and very interesting to learn about and learn from.

With education, more people are beginning to appreciate bats than fear them. In fact, we’ve even started looking forward to seeing certain bats—such as Mexican free-tails—that winter in Mexico and summer in Texas.

The Mexican free-tailed bat is probably one of our most common bats in the state, and people know it because it lives in such large numbers in places such as bridges and caves and makes nightly emergences that many people can come out and watch.

Tomorrow: the benefits of bats.

The Mexican free-tailed bat, in particular, is really valuable for agricultural purposes.

That’s our show for today… we receive support from the Wildlife Restoration Program…working to restore wildlife habitat in Texas…we record our series at the Production Block Studios in Austin…Joel Block engineers our program…

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.