Division of Wildlife to protect land around massive bat cave

From Balloon Boy to Tom Tancredo, in the eyes of the rest of the nation, Colorado is a pretty damned weird state. The absolute epicenter of that weirdness is the San Luis Valley, where the oddities include high-altitude Sahara-style sand dunes, an alien enclave near Crestone and a living, breeding alligator farm.

So would 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats make anyone bat an eye? Hardly. In fact, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) and the Orient Land Trust went out of their way to set up a conservation easement of 350 acres, including the now-defunct Orient iron ore mine, to make the bats feel more at home.

Through a separate deal with the Saguache Field Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, the public will be able to access BLM roads and a marked hiking trail to view the bat roosting site.

During July and August the bats swoop out of the mine at sunset to feast on up to 6,000 pounds of insects, according to the Division of Wildlife.

“The bat out-flight is one of the most unique wildlife spectacles in Colorado,” CDOW area wildlife manager Rick Basagoitia said. “It’s hard to appreciate it fully until you see it.”

[ Image: Bats swoop out of the old Orient iron ore mine to feast on insects near Villa Grove, Colo. (Colorado Division of Wildlife) ]

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