A blackening of the evening sky as at least a million bats emerge from their cave is a spectacle Oklahomans can see in their home state this summer.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Selman Bat Watches will be held the last four weekends of July at the Selman Wildlife Management Area near Freedom, where the Selman Bat Cave attracts migrating Mexican free-tailed bats every year just as it did 100 years ago. Each night, the bats emerge from the cave to feast on literally tons of insects, offering a visual spectacle to onlookers in the process. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
Each night’s viewing activities will be limited to 75 visitors who are randomly drawn from a pool of mailed in registration forms. Hopeful viewers must print, complete and mail their registration form to the Wildlife Department at Bat Watch Program, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152 between May 31 and June 7. Only mailed in registration forms post-marked by June 7 will be accepted, and instructions for completing the form should be read carefully to ensure correctly completed registration. Successful registrants will receive an e-mail confirmation and a packet in the mail.
“Given the popularity of this event, the Department is using this approach to streamline its registration process,” said Melynda Hickman, wildlife diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. The bats’ evening emergence is the highlight of a Bat Watch, but there is more to the evening than simply watching bats. Buses take visitors to the Selman Wildlife Management Area, usually closed to the public, where they learn facts about bats and the prairie community. There also is an optional nature hike before the bats emerge. On Friday and Saturday evenings, staff and telescopes from the University of Central Oklahoma’s Selman Living Laboratory will be at the observatory to assist stargazers.
More information and details about the Selman Bat Watch can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com or by calling (405) 424-0099.