It’s about as long as a playing card, with a wingspan about as wide as a ruler. Heck, it’d take 3 or 4 of them together to weigh as much as a golf ball. The Mexican free-tailed bat is hardly imposing … individually.
But look at ‘em streaming by the millions from under some bridge, out from some cave, a twisting tornado of “fwip, fwip, fwip” that seems to have no end, and they’re a little bit more impressive. The longhorn and the armadillo might be the state honorees, but when it comes to sheer numbers, the bats easily outnumber the rest of us mammals — people, too.
Here are five places to see the winged terror of Texas (at least as far as mosquitoes are concerned — they eat them by the ton) …
Bamberger Ranch Preserve
Where: Blanco County, near Johnson City
Details: This private ranch is at the low end when it comes to Mexican free-tailed bat population, with about 150,000, according to their web site. But the cool part is that the bats live in a man-made batcave that is called the Chiroptorium.
Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
Where: Downtown Austin
Details: The largest urban bat colony is home to up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats who have been living there since the bridge was renovated in the 1980s.
Old Tunnel State Park
Where: Kendall County, not too far from Luckenbach
Details: The abandoned railroad tunnel is home to up to 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats.
Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve
Where: South of Mason
Details: Up to 4 million Mexican free-tailed bats live in the cave, which once was mined for its guano deposits.
Bracken Cave and Nature Reserve
Where: Comal County, between San Antonio and New Braunfels
Details: Recently secured from the dangers of development by Bat Conservation International, you have to join BCI to see the bats on selected nights. But the numbers are incredible — 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats make this the largest bat colony in the world.