Stuart Bat Cave, located in Kickapoo Cavern State Park, shelters approximately one million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) mid-March through mid-October, offering visitors to the state park exceptional opportunities to witness bats take flight en masse.

Nightly during the bats’ migratory season, visitors to Stuart Bat Cave witness remarkable bat flight. Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department..

The bat cave is part of the Edwards Plateau, an uplifted region originally formed from marine deposits of sandstone, limestone, and shale. Once a lush grassland savannah that supported abundant herds of bison and antelope, the region was significantly changed between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s by indiscriminate land use. Even Stuart Cave was affected.

For several decades guano miners plundered the cave to extract and sell bat guano to the local farmers until they recklessly dug a shaft from the ground surface into a section of the cave near the end of its tunnels. The miners’ actions swiftly altered the stability of cave temperatures and significantly cooled the habitat making it less conducive for pregnant female bats to give birth and nurse their pups. The once healthy bat colony suffered. (The guano miners’ actions also changed their livelihoods. Fewer bats. Far less guano.)  

In 1989, the shaft was covered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to return the cave to its natural state and restore the bat colony with impressive success.

Currently, wildlife managers continue to closely monitor Stuart Cave and 19 other caves within the state park. Unauthorized access to all caves is restricted. On Saturday afternoons, guided three-hour cave tours are provided in nearby Kickapoo Cavern. Tours are limited to 10 people and require advance registration

MORE INFO

  • Mexican free-tailed bats are officially designated as the Texas State Flying Mammal. They devour insects, lessening the need for local agriculture to use pesticides.
  • In addition to watching the nightly bat emergence, Kickapoo Cavern State Park offers campsites and hiking and mountain biking trails. The state park is approximately an hour’s drive from Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area which also offers excellent bat viewing.
  • Texas is home to 32 of 47 bat species found in the United. States. Check out other Texas bat-viewing sites