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Bat Watch

The Mexican free-tailed bat migrates to Oklahoma each year. These bats are providing a huge economic benefit to local farmers and ranchers and tourist can even watch their impressive evening flights.
Bat Watch

A bat

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Wildlife Department

Show Dates

Show 1129: Bat Watch

Air date: July 17, 2011

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL THE COST OF PEST CONTROL FOR FARMERS RUNS IN THE BILLIONS EACH YEAR, YET IF IT WASN’T FOR A MAMMAL STRAIGHT OUT OF HORROR MOVIES, IT COULD BE MUCH WORSE.  DURING THE EVENING, BATS EAT AS MANY INSECTS AS BIRDS DO DURING THE DAY, IN FACT, ONE BAT CAN EAT AS MUCH AS 3,000 MOSQUITOS EACH AND EVERY NIGHT.  YET, THEY ALSO PROVIDE ANOTHER SERVICE TO OUR STATE, AND THAT’S TOURISM DOLLARS.  OUR ALISA HINES TAKES US TO THE MIDDLE OF GYPSUM COUNTRY TO SEE THIS INDUSTRIOUS CREATURE.

ALISA HINES:  AS THE SUMMER SUN SETS, A BLACK RIBBON FILLS THE EVENING SKY, AND HAS INSECTS FLYING FOR DEAR LIFE.

MELYNDA HICKMAN:  FOR MEXICAN FREE-TAILED BATS, IN PARTICULAR, THEY ARE TREMENDOUS PREDATORS ON THE CORN BORER MOTH.  WHICH IS A VERY, VERY NASTY MOTH ON CROPS, PARTICULARLY IN MEXICO, AND THEN IN THE TEXAS AREA THEY’RE CALLED THE BREADBASKET.

ALISA:  MELYNDA HICKMAN IS A WILDLIFE DIVERSITY BIOLOGIST WITH THE OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE AND SAYS THE BATS EAT EXTREMELY LARGE QUANTITIES OF INSECTS.

MELYNDA:  THESE GUYS ARE EATING AT LEAST HALF THEIR BODY WEIGHT EVERY NIGHT.  SO WITH A MILLION AND A HALF BATS AT SELMAN BAT CAVE, DO THE FORMULA; WE CAN SAY, AND IT’S A CONSERVATIVE NUMBER, THAT THEY CONSUME 10 TONS OF INSECTS EACH NIGHT, EACH NIGHT.  NOW 10 TONS IS LIKE 2 OF SAY, THE PACHYDERMS THERE AT THE OKLAHOMA CITY ZOO, BUT WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE IN INSECTS, WE HAVEN’T A CLUE; BECAUSE THOSE INSECTS WILL WEIGH A LOT LESS, SO 10 TONS EVERY NIGHT.  BUT YET, WHEN YOU GUYS GO HOME TONIGHT, YOU’LL STILL HAVE BUGS HITTING YOUR WINDSHIELD; SO, IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE IF WE DIDN’T HAVE THEM.

ALISA:  AND BECAUSE OF THAT, FARMERS REALLY LIKE ‘EM.

MELYNDA:  THEY DO LIKE THEM, BECAUSE AGAIN, THE AGRICULTURAL.  THERE’S PRIMARILY GRAZING THAT TAKES PLACE IN THIS IMMEDIATE AREA, BUT THERE’S ALSO A WINTER WHEAT CROP HERE, AND SOME COTTON, BUT PRIMARILY WINTER WHEAT.  BUT STILL, THEY DON’T HAVE TO USE THE PESTICIDES; THEY DON’T HAVE THE PEST PROBLEMS THAT THEY WOULD HAVE IF THEY DIDN’T HAVE THESE HUGE NUMBERS OF BATS IN THIS AREA.

ALISA:  NOW BATS HAVE EARNED KIND OF A BAD RAP, A CRITICISM THAT’S RATHER FLAWED.

MELYNDA:  BATS ARE REALLY NOT BAD.  BUT I GREW UP IN A GENERATION THAT WE WERE TAUGHT THAT BATS WERE BASICALLY NOTHING BUT FLYING RODENTS, AND THAT THEY WERE DIRTY AND RABID.  AND IT’S ONLY REALLY BEEN IN THE LAST 20 YEARS THAT WE’RE STARTING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BATS.  BUT THEY REALLY ARE VERY CLEAN; THEY ARE NOT RODENTS AT ALL.  THEY’RE IN THEIR OWN GROUP; AND, THEY’RE CONSTANTLY GROOMING IN THE DAYTIME, WHEN THEY’RE NOT SLEEPING.  HELPING EACH OTHER, LICK AND GROOM AND PICK OFF FLEAS AND STUFF LIKE THAT.  SO, THEY’RE VERY CLEAN ANIMALS.

[MUSIC]

ALISA:  EACH SUMMER, TOURISTS FLOCK TO ALABASTER CAVERNS STATE PARK FOR THE ANNUAL SELMAN BAT WATCH.

MELYNDA:  THE BAT WATCH IS JOINING ABOUT 70 OTHER PEOPLE AND GOING OUT AND RELAXING IN A BEAUTIFUL EVENING, AND JUST WATCHING SOMETHING THAT’S BEEN GOING ON FOR OVER A 100 YEARS AND SEEING IT JUST THE WAY IT WAS A 100 YEARS AGO.  YOU JUST CAN’T GET THAT VERY OFTEN THESE DAYS.

ALISA:  AS YOU CAN SEE, THE SUN IS ABOUT TO SET AND WHEN IT DOES, THE BATS COME OUT AND THE FEAST BEGINS.

MELYNDA:  WHEN THE FEMALES AND ALL THE PUPS ARE FLYING, IT TAKES AN HOUR AND A HALF FOR THEM TO EXIT THE CAVE.

ALISA:  AN EXODUS THAT GOES ON WELL INTO THE NIGHT, AND MAKES THESE MAMMALS MORE FRIEND, THAN FOE.