PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The National Weather Service in Phoenix picked up on something pretty cool in the sky Sunday night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t rain. It was bats – lots of bats. The imaging showed almost a blossoming motion over a huge area of the Valley.

“That doesn’t look like a normal shower, the way everything is sort of fanning out. They don’t really have a uniform direction. That’s usually your clue initially that it’s probably animals flying around,” said NWS meteorologist Sean Benedict.

Because it happened right as the sun was going down, Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist Angie McIntire thinks it was probably a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats.

“I was really excited because I thought there’s a possibility that it’s a new colony that I wasn’t aware of,” she said.

The radar likely shows the bats coming out of a cave, a tunnel, or a bridge and then dispersing to find bugs to eat across the city. There are 28 bat species that hang around in Arizona, but of course, they’re not always easy to see in the dark. That’s why radar can be so helpful for scientists to track them. McIntire said she would love a collaboration of sorts to combine the Game and Fish Department’s knowledge of bats with the National Weather Service’s expertise of radar.

The beginning of fall is when you’re likely to see a lot of bats on the move.

“Mexican free-tail bats would probably be going to Mexico to spend the winter,” McIntire said. “Some of them stay over winter here in Phoenix.”

Though it’s not the same area where radar picked up on the flapping mammals, there is a place in Phoenix people refer to as the Bat Bridge (near 40th Street and Camelback Road). If you come at the right time in the evening, you can see bats leaving a flood control tunnel north of the Arizona canal.

mexican bats

If you come at the right time in the evening, you can see bats leaving a flood control tunnel north of the Arizona canal.

As scary as it sounds, bat watching is safe – no need to bring garlic or a wooden stake.

“Bats get a really bad rap,” McIntire said. “But there’s really nothing to fear when it comes to bats.”

If you start noticing bats passing through your area in the fall, Game and Fish wants to hear about it. You can email bats@azgfd.gov to tell them where and when you spot them.

 

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