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Batting It Out of the Park

By Linda Tancs

Carlsbad Caverns is a national park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico, an underground wonderland of limestone caves (more than 119 of them documented) discovered by Native Americans centuries ago. The terrain yields fascinating stories about the Ice Age: a stone scraper discovered within view of the entrance goes back to Ice Age Indian hunters, and bones from Ice Age animals like jaguars, camels, lions and giant sloths have been found in the entrance areas of some caves. During summer, another thing you’ll find in the caves is a Mexican free-tailed bat community nearly 400,000 strong. The evening bat flight program takes place from Memorial Day weekend through late October, after which the winged mammals migrate to Mexico for the winter. Preceded by an informative lecture by a park ranger, the seasonal spectacle highlights the mass exodus of the bats in search of an evening meal. Their pre-dawn return to the caves is likewise impressive. During July and August, the herd is increased by newborn bats and migrating bats from northern climes. Photography or other filming at bat flight may be done under a special use permit obtained from the park at least two weeks in advance.

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