Bats by the Biltmore: Hidden Valley

The Western Pipistrelle bat, one of the two species in the Phoenix Bat Cave.
The Western Pipistrelle bat, one of the two species in the Phoenix Bat Cave.
Wikimedia Commons

Beginning today, from time to time we'll show you something you may not have known is right in the middle of the city.

Starting this month, you have a place to go in the Valley to stick your head in some bat clouds.

Who knew? Turns out, there's a "Phoenix Bat Cave" filled with about 20,000 bats not far from the Arizona Biltmore. Visitors to the so-called cave can see (and hear) bats flying out en masse right after sundown.

If that's the sort of thing you call a good time.

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We visited the cave twice in the past week, and each night, we were treated to the laser beam-like ping sounds the bats make, and the sight of hundreds of little bats zooming out of the cave by the dozens. Some of the bats flew right by our ears and over our heads; luckily, none of the bats in the Phoenix cave are fabled vampire bats.

At least, that's what the experts tell us.

"There are two different species of bats in the cave," says Angie McIntire, Bat Manager Coordinator for the Arizona Department of Game & Fish's Bat Conservation and Management program. "There are the Mexican Free-tailed, which are the majority of the bats you'll see, and there are the Western Pipistrelle, which are smaller bats and the first to fly out of the cave in the evening. They look like butterflies, and have a very fluttery flight pattern."

 The Mexican Free-tailed bats begin migrating here when temperatures start to climb in the spring, and migrate through May. "It's a female colony, with young in the tunnel," McIntire says. "The highest number are usually there in July and August."

The "bat cave" is actually an underground tunnel, which is part of a Maricopa County Flood Control ditch. There are two entrances. To get to the first entrance, you'll need to park your car near 40th Street and Camelback Road, and then walk along the north side of the Arizona Canal for about half a mile. The bat cave entrance is north of the canal, behind Judson School.

The second cave entrance is next to a police station on 24th Street, just south of Lincoln Drive. It's next to a huge water pipe, off to the side of an asphalt path that makes it wheelchair accessible. (For some more detailed directions to both cave entrances, check out this blog).

People who want to see live bats up close and learn a little more about them can attend one of the Bat Conservation and Management workshops at the cave entrance near 40th Street and Camelback Road. At these monthly summer workshops, people from the Bat Conservation and Management program bring out live bats and talk for about ten minutes.

The first Bat Conservation and Management workshop at the Phoenix Bat Cave is scheduled for Wednesday, May 19, at 7:15 p.m. For more workshop dates and information, visit the Bat Conservation and Management website.



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