CARLSBAD – Memorial Day weekend kicks off the 84th anniversary of Carlsbad Caverns National Park’s summer Bat Watch Program. Park rangers have presented summertime bat flight programs since 1929 and as a result, Carlsbad Caverns National Park has one of the best-known bat colonies in the world.
Nightly, half hour programs begin at sunset as rangers dispel myths and extol the virtues of bats. Thousands of visitors have learned about these nocturnal creatures as they watch them spiral out of the cavern on their nightly forage for insects.
Bats are one of the best natural predators for controlling insects because they eats millions of them every night, providing a natural pest management service that is harmless to humans but offers an integral environmental benefit.
The nightly number of bats fluctuates naturally for a variety of reasons throughout the season. Temperature and weather are the biggest factors in the fluctuation in population, although lack of rain reduces insect populations, which in turn affects availability of insects for bats to consume. Bats will split into smaller colonies during dry years in order to ensure enough resources for survival.
Park visitors are reminded that, during bat flight events, the use of all cameras, including cell phones and video cameras, is strictly prohibited while bats are exiting the cavern. Bat researchers from around the world have documented the disturbance caused to bats by lights, including the light from flash cameras. In addition, the sounds from electronic devices may interfere with the bat’s echolocation abilities and disorient them during their flight.
For more information about bat flight and times, call 575-785-3012.