PHOTOS: Giant Bat Colony Flood Exit of Abandoned Colorado Mine Shaft

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Ashley Cooper/Getty Images)

A huge bat colony was caught in photo form flooding from the exit of a mine shaft in Colorado. The defunct Orient Mine is home to a colony of about 250,000 bats. It’s the largest bat colony in Colorado, and one of the largest in the world.

The Orient Mine bat colony is mostly made up of males, which makes it a bachelor colony. They spend the summers in Colorado, then migrate during the winter to Mexico, Central America, and South America. It’s possible we’re witnessing the bats migrating south for winter. Or, they’re just coming out to feed on a regular night.

The bats that live in the mine are mostly Brazillian Free-Tail bats, but other species roost in the mine as well. The Colorado Department of Fish and Wildlife closely monitors their behavior and activity. They placed monitoring equipment inside the mine to keep an eye on what the bats are up to and how they’re feeling.

The Orient Mine is a dedicated Colorado Natural Area and is considered a Watchable Wildlife site by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Orient Mine was the leading producer of iron ore in Colorado from 1880 through 1932, when it closed. People left the once-prosperous town. But, in 1967, the bats came to stay. Since then, visitors can see the bats emerge around dusk, when they flood from the mine and zoom around at about 60 mph.

The bats are definitely beneficial to the San Luis Valley. They control insect populations, which results in fewer pesticides on crops in the area. There’s also a hot spring nearby, and the bats keep the mosquitos away.

Weather Service Radar Confused By Thousands of Bats Swarming From Arizona Tunnels

Back in September, the National Weather Service thought there was an incoming storm in Arizona, only to find out that its radar was confusing a swarm of bats for a massive storm. NWS meteorologists scratched their heads for what was causing the freak weather phenomenon. Luckily, social media responded with the answer.

NWS meteorologist Sean Benedict spoke with AZFamily after the event, clarifying that they figured out it wasn’t a storm. “That doesn’t look like a normal shower, the way everything is sort of fanning out,” he said. “They don’t really have a uniform direction. That’s usually your clue initially that it’s probably animals flying around.”

The National Weather Service in Phoenix had a little fun with its followers on Twitter after they figured it out, though. The NWS posed the questions: “What might be causing all the radar returns around [Phoenix] between 6-7 PM this evening? Is it rain or something else? Any guesses?”

People flooded the replies with guesses, some including Chupacabras, flying tacos, or a gender reveal party. They finally shared the answer with followers, stating that it was “probably thousands of Mexican free-tail bats that migrate here for the summer.”