The Best Places to View Bats in the United States and Canada

The Vacationer's Guide To Bat Watching, Part I
By the Staff at Bat Conservation International
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Bat Facts

Some bats can devour more than 600 mosquitoes in a single hour.
Desert ecosystems rely on nectar-feeding bats as primary pollinators of giant cacti.
Giant flying foxes of Indonesia have wingspans of nearly six feet.
The common little brown bat of North America is the world's longest-lived mammal for its size, with lifespans sometimes exceeding 32 years.
Mexican free-tailed bats sometimes reach altitudes of two miles high to feed or to catch tail-winds that carry them over long distances at speeds of   more than 60 miles per hour.
The pallid bat of western North America is immune to the stings of scorpions and even the seven-inch centipedes upon which it feeds.
Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair, protruding only two millimeters above a pond's surface.

Source: Bat Conservation International


Bats haven't had it this good in a long time. Bats were once widely vilified in the Western Hemisphere, but today, more and more humans are getting a clue and realizing that bats are gentle creatures. They're vital to their ecosystems and real friends to humans: many of the flying mammals devour billions of pesky mosquitoes and other annoying insects every night while others serve as pollinators for plants. And don't forget about their work supporting human agriculture by gobbling crop-eating bugs.

Life is getting better for bats, and there was probably never a better time for humans to watch the intriguing critters. Great bat-viewing sites are being recognized and developed everywhere. In your area, it might be the local football stadium, or under a highway bridge. (Those bats roosting under bridges more and more frequently are becoming a part of transportation departments' official purviews. The departments would rather protect and encourage them than eliminate them, risking the responsibility of doing environmental harm.) Or, you might catch a good look at bats at a state park, a federal recreation area, a zoo, or other facility near you.

GORP proudly presents a small sampling from Bat Conservation International's The Vacationer's Guide to Bat Watching to help you plan your bat adventure, or to whet your appetite for more information about bats in your neck of the woods.

For a more thorough list of sites in the United States and Canada, please order The Vacationer's Guide directly from BCI through its web site, by writing to:

Bat Conservation International
P.O. Box 162603
Austin, TX 78716
or by calling 1-800-538-BATS.

The number of new bat-related programs is increasing so rapidly, BCI is already planning a second edition of its popular guide.

Before you go, make sure you know your Bat Watching Etiquette.

Bat Watching Sites

Note: be sure to call ahead and verify information given below.

Blowing Wind Cave National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Scottsboro, Alabama
(Exact location given by Wheeler NWR with appointment.)

Mailing address:
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
2700 Refuge Headquarters Dr.
Decatur, AL 35603
Phone: 205-350-6639

Open: Year-round by appointment only.

Admission: Please call for information.

Special programs: Occasionally upon request, during the summer.

Bat viewing: Nightly cave emergence of approximately one hour during the summer. One of the largest bat emergences in the eastern U.S.

Species: Myotis grisescens (federally endangered)

University Of Arizona Stadium

Location: Warren Ave. on university campus, Tucson, Arizona.

Mailing address:
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Phone: 520-621-2211

Admission: Free; bats are viewed from street. Metered parking available on Warren Ave.

Bat viewing: Mexican free-tailed bats breed and roost high up in a crevice on the east side of the stadium. The number of bats varies throughout the year, up to as many as 6,000 in the fall. Because of Tucson's favorable climate, bats may be seen during any month, but the best viewing time is September and October at sunset. Standing on Warren Avenue, north of Sixth Street, with your back to the baseball field, look west up to the north and south corners of the stadium. You may have to wait 10 or 15 minutes before 500 or more bats emerge in a matter of seconds. Occasionally an owl can be seen catching bats as they exit the roost.

Species: Tadarida brasiliensis

Other great bat watching locations:

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

There are many more sites at state parks, zoos, and private facilities.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Jul 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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