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June 28, 2004
Bat Viewing Offered Nightly at Old Tunnel
FREDERICKSBURG, Texas — Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area near here in the central Texas Hill Country is offering bat-viewing opportunities every night all summer through October.
The abandoned railroad tunnel at Old Tunnel WMA is home to about 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats and thousands of cave myotis bats. The bats emerge from the tunnel and spiral up into the sky each night around sunset. Nightly bat-viewing opportunities exist every night and educational presentations are given Thursday through Sunday from May 1 to Oct. 31. Emergence times vary per month and are as follows:
- May — June, 8:30-9:15 p.m.
- July, 8-9 p.m.
- August, 6:30-8 p.m.
- September — October, 5:30-8 p.m.
Visitors are advised to arrive well before emergence times. Seating for programs is on a first-come, first-served basis. Several educational exhibits with information about Mexican Free-tailed bats and the railroad history are located along the half-mile nature trail, and bats can also be observed flying within the railroad tunnel from this trail.
The bat emergence can be observed through two viewing areas. The upper viewing area adjacent to the parking area is free every night. Fantastic views of red-tailed hawks feeding on emerging bats can also be seen from this area.
The lower viewing area offering bench seating adjacent to the tunnel entrance, is open Thursdays through Sundays for educational programs and requires a fee. About one hour before estimated emergence time, an educational talk is given about the history of the tunnel, natural history of Mexican free-tailed bats, and general bat ecology. Excellent views of bat emergences are possible from this area, where flight patterns bring the bats to within a few feet of visitors. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis for as many as 70 people, and reservations are not accepted. Flash photography is not allowed during the bat flight at the lower viewing area. Entrance fees for educational programs in the lower viewing area are as follows:
- Adults, $5
- Children ages 6-16, $2
- Adults 65 and older, $3
- Children younger than age 5, free
Organized groups of as many as 70 people can make reservations to view the bat flight from the lower viewing area. Group viewing is offered three nights a week, Monday through Wednesday. Entrance fee for a youth group is $40 and $75 for a non-youth group.
Pets and alcohol are not allowed at Old Tunnel WMA. For the protection of the bats and visitors, entrance into the tunnel is strictly prohibited.
For more information about Old Tunnel WMA, estimated bat emergence times, and making group reservations call the Old Tunnel information line (830) 990-2860.
Old Tunnel WMA is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, located in Kendall County on Old San Antonio Road (about 3 miles east of Fredericksburg on U.S. 290), approximately 13 miles north of Comfort, and 11 miles south of Fredericksburg.
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