For the seventh year, the San Antonio River Authority is offering local residents the opportunity to observe and learn about a local colony of bats as the nocturnal mammals makes their nightly exodus from under the Camden Street Bridge north of downtown.
The Bat Loco Bash, set for Tuesday night at 6 p.m., is hosted by the river authority in partnership with Bat Conservation International, a conservation group dedicated to protecting bats, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to educate the public about the bat population, particularly the Mexican free-tailed bats that populate the area.
The free event, which is open to the public and drew an estimated crowd of 5,000 last year, takes place at the corner of Camden and Newell streets. Parking under the Interstate 35 bridge is also free. Food trucks will be on site and live music, including performances from Take Note Youth Band, will play between educational presentations.
Attendees can pose for pictures with Batman, Batwoman, Batgirl, and a licensed 1966 Batmobile. Samba Vida Drum and Dance Company drummers and dancers will lead spectators in a parade to the bridge, where the colony of about 50,000 bats will fly out for their nightly hunt at around 8:30 p.m.
The event showcases Bat Conservation International’s educational presentations about the role bats play in the environment.
“It is a really great opportunity for us to educate the community and celebrate the colony that lives on the Museum Reach,” said Yviand Serbones-Hernandez, community relations coordinator for the river authority. “We also realize that school is about to start so we are also encouraging families to come out and have that last summer break celebration.”
Ten years ago, when the Museum Reach portion of the River Walk opened, SARA received complaints about the bats that live under the bridge because people viewed them as pests. SARA asked Bat Conservation International to host public educational events that gained so much popularity, SARA officials created the Bat Loco Bash.
“Most people’s experience with bats has something to do with movies and TV, which are generally negative,” said Fran Hutchins, Bat Conservation International’s director of Bracken Cave research. “This is a good opportunity to make people see that a world without bats is a world full of biting bugs. Bats are the No. 1 predator of bugs that bite. Also, there are over 500 species of plants that humans rely that bats pollinate, like bananas and agave.”
The all-male Mexican free-tailed bat colony migrates to San Antonio during the spring and heads back to Mexico for breeding in the fall and winter. Their diet mostly consists of moths. Matt Reidy, a TPWD wildlife biologist, said this natural pest control helps save local farms from moths and other insects that eat their crops. TPWD collaborates on events like Bat Loco Bash to spread awareness about conservation efforts and the threats the bats face, like habitat destruction.
“Our society is becoming more urban and separated from the natural world,” Reidy said. “Having an event like this where kids can go appreciate wildlife and understand the benefits of nature is very positive for the environment and conservation.”