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20140823 Bentsen Park Bats lg-04The bat signal was on at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission Saturday evening.

Bats were the topic of discussion during the most recent edition of the park’s Creatures of the Night interpretive program.

With 11 different species calling the Rio Grande Valley home, helping the public better understand these underappreciated–and oftentimes feared–winged creatures of the night that make up the second largest order of mammals in the world was the program’s goal. Led by Park Ranger and Interpreter Roy Rodriguez and Jesus Franco, assistant coordinator of the Rio Grande Joint Venture (a conservation partnership), Saturday’s program began with a PowerPoint presentation featuring the “A, B, Cs” of bats followed by an outdoor demonstration of the process biologists use to document vital information about them. Information that includes, but is not limited, to their species, sex, measurements, weight and overall health.

“The most common species of bats we have here in the Valley is definitely the Mexican free-tail bat,” Franco said. “We also have the evening bat, the northern yellow bat, the southern yellow bat, the pallid bat and the ghost-faced bat. Those are pretty much the resident species. Then we have a few that are migratory species including the eastern red bat and the hoary bat. They’re all insect-eating species of bats.”

According to Franco, all south Texas species of bats are insect-eaters. However other species eat fruit, vertebrates such as fish and frogs, nectar and a few even drink blood.

“We don’t have any night-blooming, nectar-producing plants in South Texas so we don’t have any nectar-feeding bats here,” Franco said.

While he did set up a mist net in an attempt at capturing a live bat to demonstrate the process he and other biologists use to determine and document vital statistics about local bat populations, Franco did not succeed in actually capturing a bat Saturday evening. However he did use a life-sized plush toy bat named “Pepito” to demonstrate how bats get trapped in the net and the subsequent step-by-step process involved in measuring, weighing and determining the overall health of individual bats.

20140823 Bentsen Park Bats lg-02While Saturday’s program was all about bats, Rodriguez shared details about the park’s Creatures of the Night weekly program.

“Every Saturday night throughout the year we have a Creatures of the Night program,” shared Rodriguez. “Our programs are designed to be family friendly and we’ll do things like star gazing, listen for bats with special tools, we’ll look for owls, bobcats, giant toads and coyotes. We also show people how to find spiders really easily with a flashlight and we’ll use ultra-violet lights to look for scorpions. Sometimes it seems as if the adults are having more fun than the kids are because they’re discovering their childhood all over again by exploring nature.”

The park’s Saturday programs are free of charge to children under the age of 13.

Other than the weekly Creatures of the Night programs, the park will be holding nature walks each Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m., beginners’ hawk watches each Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and bird walks each Sunday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. throughout the month of September. For more information about the park’s weekly programs and walks, as well as other special programs and the upcoming fall hawk watch, visit the or call 956-584-9156.

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