Following Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats Incredible Journey is a fun way to get outside and learn about nature.
In a remote part of the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado, an abandoned iron mine is the site of a
unique and special wildlife display. Each summer, people hike to the Orient Mine at Orient Land Trust
(OLT) to witness the Brazilian Free-Tailed bats incredible journey into Colorado.
The population of this colony is estimated between 100,000 to 250,000 bats. Almost all the bats are Brazilian
Free-Tailed Bats, also known as Mexican Free-Tailed bats. This is the same bat species that roosts in Carlsbad
Caverns in New Mexico. However, while Carlsbad is a maternity roost, the colony at the Orient Mine is mostly
made up of “bachelors.”
Bats Don’t Hibernate
These Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats do not hibernate, instead, they migrate to Central and South America. They
arrive at OLT mid to late June and depart early to mid-September. Drought and other conditions can affect when
and even if, they arrive at OLT. Their 1,100-mile journey is the longest documented migration of any bat species.
Bats are great to have around in mosquito season!
Free-Tails are insect eaters and feed exclusively on flying insects, predominately moths but also small beetles,
mosquitoes, and others. The Orient colony eats an estimated 2-3 tons of insects a night! This provides a
tremendous benefit to people, from fewer annoying insects to farmers who need to use fewer pesticides.
This summer event takes place on the property of the Valley View Hot Springs in the northern part of the San
Luis Valley. You will have to leave your car outside the gate and register at the OLT Welcome Center. The hike to
the Orient Mine is about 1.7 miles one way. Have good walking shoes, a flashlight, water, warm clothes and
possibly rain gear. It does get cold at 9,450 feet in the evening, so it is best to be prepared. The hike takes about
3 hours. A self-guided hiking tour map is offered when you sign in and there isn’t any fee for this event. However,
you are required to leave your driver’s license at the front desk. Furthermore, since OLT allows visitors to be
nude at the mine, you may encounter visitors in various states of dress.
The best time to go is in August
I’ve witnessed this phenomenon twice. Both times were amazing. The first date was August 24th, the second
time was Sept. 7th. By September 7th, fewer bats emerged. I imagine by September 15th most bats will have
Directions: Driving north from Alamosa, 1 hr, 15 minutes – North on
Highway 17 to County Road GG to Orient Land Trust
Driving south from Salida, 1 hour- south on Highway 285 to County Road
GG to Orient Land Trust
For more information call 719-256-4315 or 719-256-5212
You May Also Enjoy:
You Don’t Want to Miss the Migration of Hummingbirds into Ramsey Canyon
Where do the Butterflies go After Summer is Over?