From the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
-- Oklahomans looking to attend a Selman Bat Watch this summer can download a registration form beginning June 1 at http://wildlifedepartment.com/
The bat watches, hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, will be held the last four weekends in July at the Selman Bat Cave WMA near Freedom. The nightly exodus of at least a million bats attracts visitors to where the state's only Mexican free-tailed bat viewing occurs. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children (12 & under).
“Pre-registration is different this year with attendees being randomly drawn from mailed in registration forms,” said Melynda Hickman, Wildlife Diversity biologist for the Wildlife Department. “Given the popularity of this event, the Department is using this approach to streamline its registration process. The specified mail-in registration period ends June 7.”
The drawing will be held June 10. To pre-register, visit http://wildlifedepartment.com/ beginning June 1 and print off a registration form, then mail the completed form to the Wildlife Department at Bat Watch Program, P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152.
Registration is by mail only and must be postmarked no later than June 7 to be included in the drawing. More information and details about the Selman Bat Watch can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com. Successful registrants will receive a confirmation packet by mail.
“This is the only event of its kind here in the state,” Hickman said.
The Wildlife Department purchased the area around the bat cave in 1996 because of its ecological importance to the Mexican free-tailed bat. According to Hickman, the cave is important because it is one of only five major sites in Oklahoma that is used by females to raise their young.
Hickman says the bats provide a great service: free pest control. The bats spend daylight hours inside the cave. But most of the action is after sunset.
“Studies tell us that the bats at Selman Bat Cave eat about 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of insects, moths and beetles every night,” Hickman said.
The bats' evening emergence is the highlight of a Bat Watch, but there's more to the evening than simply watching bats. Buses take visitors to the Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area, usually closed to the public, where they learn facts about bats and the prairie community. There is also 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.
Additionally the Bat Watches benefit the local economy by drawing tourists from a multi-state region into Oklahoma. Hickman said Oklahomans enjoy a rare opportunity to get close to wild bats and to share their importance to the environment and the economy.
The bat watches are limited to 75 people each night, and registration is required. For more information, call (405)424-0099 or visit wildlifedepartment.com.