Sunday, June 21, 2009

Selman's Summer Bat Watch

The humid night is palpable, thick with anticipation as the sun dies in the west. Its last golden rays set the red rocky outcrops aflame like bonfires on the savanna. Setting aside their trepidation, scores have arrived to wait eagerly for the black torrent, a sinuous eruption of nocturnal carnivores to come streaming forth from the bowels of the earth.

For more than a decade, the Selman Bat Watch has been an exciting staple of warm summer nights in northwestern Oklahoma. Many gather each night at the Selman Wildlife Management area as millions of Mexican Freetail bats emerge in a writhing mass from caves at the Selman Wildlife Management Area, a 340 acre preserve near Woodward. The bats travel as much as 1500 miles each spring from their homes in Mexico to feast upon tons of Oklahoma insects each night.

The Watch is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in an effort to raise awareness of the important roles bats play in a healthy eco-system. The bats are very beneficial to local farmers and ranchers. Each night they feast upon tons of mosquitoes, moths, and beetles.

Oklahoma is home to 22 bat species, including the official "State Flying Mammal", the Mexican Freetail. Sadly, in recent decades many of these species have seen sharp declines in population. In fact, Oklahoma's Indian, Gray, and Ozark big-eared bats are on the federal endangered species list.

Each nightly viewing can only accommodate 75 persons, so pre-registration is a must to insure you get a spot on the night you want. Adult tickets are $10 and youths under 12 pay $5. For more information about this fascinating and thrilling spectacle, visit HERE.

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