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To the Bat Cave!

by Ed Godfrey Published: May 31, 2012
More than one million bats darken the sky around the Selman Bat Cave in northwest Oklahoma
More than one million bats darken the sky around the Selman Bat Cave in northwest Oklahoma

While many people (including myself) are excited about the Batman movie that will hit the big screen in July, there is a real “Bat Cave” in northwest Oklahoma that should also be on your summer “must see” list.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, at least one million bats emerge from the Selman Bat Cave near the small town of Freedom on summer nights to feast on literally tons of insects.
Really? A million bats? I found that number hard to believe but Michael Bergin of the Wildlife Department assures me it’s no exaggeration.
“Our biologists have been through about three years of rather pain-staking, frame-by-frame video-assisted estimation efforts, and they can confirm that the estimation is well over a million,” he said. “In fact, during July when we host the bat watches, there are at least a million females alone, not even including successfully raised pups.
“We don’t know the exact number of females that successfully raise their pups, but a good number of them do. That just sends the number even higher. There are caves in Texas with estimations of over five million Mexican free-tails, and there is even a cave on private land in southwest Oklahoma with estimations in the millions as well.”
The Wildlife Department bought the area around the Selman Bat Cave in 1996 because of its ecological importance to the Mexican free-tailed bat. It is one of five major sites in Oklahoma that is used by female bats to raise their young.
“Studies tell us that the bats at the Selman Bat Cave eat about 10 tons of insects every night,” said Melynda Hickman, biologist for the Wildlife Department.
Every weekend in July, the Wildlife Department holds bat watches at the cave which is limited to 75 visitors who are randomly drawn for the spectacle from a pool of mailed-in registration forms. To enter, download a registration from www.wildlifedepartment.com, print it and return to the Wildlife Department.
Registration forms must be postmarked by June 7 to be eligible for the drawings. Cost for admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 8 to 12.
For more information on the bat watches, call 424-0099.
And don’t forget to bring your own popcorn.

by Ed Godfrey
Reporter Sr.
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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