October 30, 2006
Approximately 400,000 Mexican Free-tail bats live in Carlsbad Caverns, at least during the summer months. According to legend, about 100 years ago, a young cowboy discovered the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns by following what he thought was a plume of smoke. What he reckoned was smoke was in actuality a column of Mexican free-tailed bats exiting the cave. The impressive flight of the Mexican Free-tail begins as daylight wanes. Initially, a handful flap out of the cave, but within a few minutes, a dense plume of bats can be observed spiraling counterclockwise out of the entrance and into the gloaming. Their destination is the Pecos and Black River valleys to the southeast, and their mission is to feed -- primarily on insects. Of course, tomorrow night they'll have multiple destinations and more than just insects will be on their menu.