If you love the smell of ammonia (and who doesn’t), then Stuart Bat Cave in Kickapoo Cavern State Park should be on your bucket list. When approaching the entrance, the acrid smell of guano is omnipresent, and for good reason, since Stuart Bat Cave is home to 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats from spring through fall.
Each day at dusk, a stream of bats can be seen circling the mouth of the cave– approximately 25 feet across–around and around and around, accelerating to speeds of 60 mph until they explode from the darkness…
and into the twilight, fluttering en masse, up and over the trees.
A continuous and frenzied swarm pours from the cave in a procession that could last up to two hours.
With the exception of some rogue bats that fly off in scattered directions, the mother lode hooks right and follows a path 50 miles due east to Uvalde in search of mosquitoes and corn earworms, a tasty moth that wreaks havoc on a number of Southern crops.
By the time they return at dawn, each bat will have eaten up to three-quarters of its body weight, which is collectively equivalent to 10 tons of insects, and easily explains the pungent odor by the cave.
Historically, the Sergeant family, who farmed this property from the early 1900’s, protected the cave entrance with fencing in order to mine the accumulated guano, which provided important income to the ranchers until 1957 when sold as premium fertilizer and an explosive constituent.
Having over-nighted for three days in the park, I can testify that there is no shortage of annoying bugs here. Not to be selfish, but I’d like to propose that some of the bats stay behind and clean up inside the park’s perimeter. If the bats only knew that they could dine closer to home–forsaking the 100-mile round-trip–then I could better enjoy my outdoor dinner plans as well.