By Morgan Montalvo
San Antonians turned out by the hundreds to see tens of thousands of Mexican free-tail bats make their nightly departure from inside the Camden Street Bridge along the San Antonio River’s Museum Reach as part of the Sixth Annual Bat Loco Bash, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The annual event brings together conservation and environmental groups to educate the public about the benefits of bats, says the San Antonio River Authority’s Yviand Serbones-Hernandez.
Last night’s bash featured information tables staffed by groups such as the National Park Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, San Antonio Zoo and Bracken Cave Preserve, all of which have experience working with or studying with the winged mammals.
Food trucks, live music, a reproduction 1960s Batmobile and children’s learning stations added to the event’s family-friendly atmosphere.
At the San Antonio Zoo exhibit, exhibit specialist Rubi Jaimes informed visitors about White nose syndrome, an infectious disease linked to bat colony collapse.
“We’re teaching kids, like, how they can identify it in the bat populations and some of the colonies,” Jaimes said, “and, if they want to, when they grow up they can actually be, like, one of the scientists that studies this type of fungus or even the bat populations.”
Les Hutchins with the Bracken Cave Preserve just north of San Antonio said while its become common knowledge that a bat can eat its own weight in insects each night, most people don’t know the critical roles bats play in food production.
“They pollinate, like, cocoa plants, we get chocolate,” Hutchins said, “wild bananas for our bananas, tequila – we need bats to pollinate agave cactus for tequila production.”
Hutchings said the bat colony that lives within the bridge are mostly males, and non-reproducing females.
Because males and non-fertile females cannot feed offspring during the “pup” stage, he said, adults segregate by gender or usefulness in order to maximize nursery space.
“The maternity colony like Bracken Cave is where the mommies and the babies are right now,” Hutchins said.
Mexican free-tail bats spend winters mating south of the border, then fly north beginning in March to raise their young. They return to Mexico beginning in November to start a new breeding cycle.