Photo by Mose Buchele

The nightly emergence of millions of bats from the Ann Richards Bridge on Congress Avenue is a popular attraction in Austin during the summer.  While many will tell you all those bats all fly south to Mexico for the winter and leave the bridge abandoned, it’s a little more complicated than that.  

“You know that was kind of a surprise. There was a really large emergence from Congress Avenue bridge and apparently they came out when there was still a little light in the sky,” says Diane Odegard of the conservation group Bats International.

Caleb Bryant-Miller/KUT News

The bats that roost under the Congress Avenue Bridge have a hard-flown journey after their nightly show for tourists and passersby.

They cruise over the trees bordering Lady Bird Lake's southern shore – flying up to 40 miles away from the city every night – then come back, roost and feast on insects between Congress Avenue and I-35.

courtesy Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services

The city-county health department is trying to find a man to let him know he may have been exposed to rabies.

The man delivered an unhealthy bat to Austin Vet Care on North Lamar Sunday afternoon.

If that’s you or someone you know, you’re asked to contact the health department’s disease surveillance program at 972-5555.

Caleb Bryant-Miller/KUT News

Thinking about watching the bats on Congress Street Bridge the evening?

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Service Department released information today that a bat from under the Congress Street Bridge has tested positive for rabies.

Carole Barasch is with the Health and Human Service Department. She says it isn’t unusual to find a bat with rabies – problems arise when these bats come into contact with humans. The Health and Human Service Department is on alert because it's received word from a third party that an adult female came into contact with a rabid bat at 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3.

Photo courtesy

The Mexican free-tailed bats living under the Congress Avenue Bridge are renowned as the world’s largest urban bat colony. But their cousins in the Hill Country are no slouches either.

New tours are beginning at the Bracken Bat Cave, on the outskirts of San Antonio at the Natural Bridge Caverns, where participants can witness the evening exodus of bats from what’s called the world’s largest summer bat colony -- period.

Unlike the bat watching along Lady Bird Lake, the tours aren’t free: they costs $25. But they're being held in conjunction with Bat Conservation International, an Austin-based group dedicated to preserving bats and their habitat.

We’re not sure if there’s any timely reason for the University of Texas to warn people not to touch bats, but it’s probably a good reminder: 

Environmental Health and Safety and the Office of the Vice President for University Operations want to remind you that Austin has a significant bat population. Bats are considered a high-rabies risk species and like all wildlife, should never be touched.  

Photo by alumroot

For many Austinites, watching a swarm of bats fly out from underneath the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge at sundown is a favorite summer pastime. But this year's drought is taking a toll on that tradition.

Forty plus days of 100 degree weather and no rain have the Mexican free-tailed bats of Central Texas a little stressed. The drought has made it harder for them to find food. Bats are exiting their roosts earlier in the evenings and coming back later in the morning.