Selman Bat Cave

Useful Information

Location: Start at Alabaster Caverns State Park, 10 km South of Freedom, Hwy 50.
(36.6986, -99.1461)
Open: JUL Thu 19:15, Fri, Sat 18. [2006]
Fee: Adults USD 10, Children (3-12) USD 5, Children (0-2) not allowed. [2006]
Classification: SpeleologyGypsum Cave, Permian Blaine Formation.
Light: none, n/a
Dimension: n/a
Guided tours: Thu D=2.5 h, Fri, Sat D=4 h.
Bibliography: I. H. Black (1971): The cave life of Oklahoma: A preliminary study (excluding Chiroptera), Oklahoma Underground, 4(1 & 2): 2-53.
R.F. Parsons (1976): Gypsophily in plants - a review, Am. Midl. Nat., 96:1-96.
Address: Wildlife Diversity Program, PO Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152, Tel: +1-405-424-0099.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Every summer evening, about a million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) leave the entrance of Selman Bat Cave. This is one of the state's largest maternity colonies. The bats travel more than 2,000 kilometers from Mexico to this colony every spring. They give birth to their young in the cave and rear them, they return to Mexico in autumn. Maternity colonies contain only female bats and their offspring, male bats are excluded. Bats have one to two pups.

Every evening, when they emerge from the cave to feed, they eat an estimated 10 tons of mosquitoes, moths and beetles. This is an enormous economic benefit for the local farmers and ranchers. The feeding starts at about nine and lasts nine to ten hours. The bats travel up to 100 kilometers one way during the night Very young bats are clinging to their mother while she hunts at nigh. Within five to six weeks the young bats can fly and are capable of caring for themselves.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Department organizes tours to the cave. But this visit is unlike other cave visits. The Selman Wildlife Management Area is only open to the public during bat viewings. Visitors have to pre-register and pre-pay to attend, registration begins in May. Early applications are not accepted, but it's possible to get your name on the mailing list by calling above phone number.

The visitors meet at Alabaster Caverns State Park and board a school bus to the bat-viewing area. The short ride is included in the ticket. The viewing area is in front of the cave entrance, there is no possibility to see the cave. And probably you would not want to go in, considering the ecosystems inside. But there is an optional 800 m nature trail hike, guided by professional biologists and knowledgeable volunteers. It is a chance to see the beauty and diversity of the prairie up close and ask questions.

The viewing area is unpaved, has no running water and no toilets, rattlesnake encounters are possible. Drinking water and a port-a-potty are the only infrastructre. Probably bring something to sit on, benches and blankets are provided at the viewing sites. Cameras and binoculars are a good idea. Photography is allowed, although we guess flashlights are not. The Friday and Saturday watches take longer, minimum age is eight, but the Thursday watch is shorter and children from the age of three are allowed.

An optional and free extension to the evening is star gazing at the University of Central Oklahoma's Selman Living Laboratoy Observatory. Telescopes and knowledgeable staff will show the center of the Galaxy, binary stars, or the International Space Station, if it passes overhead. Weather permitting.