Mexican Free-tailed Bat

Mexican free-tailed bat
Ann Froschauer/USFWS

Species of Greatest Conservation Need


This bat has dark brown to dark gray fur, wrinkled lips and large, rounded ears. The wings are long and narrow. The tail of “free-tailed bats” extends past the edge of the tail membrane; the Mexican free-tailed bat’s tail is 1-1.5 inches long.


This bat is 3.5 to 4.25 inches long.


Mexican free-tailed bats are largely found in caves, but may utilize mines, tunnels, and bridges. Maternity caves typically have high ceilings (more than 25 foot), large entrances, and tend to be warm. All known maternity caves in Oklahoma are found in gypsum formations. This species can be found in the western two-thirds of Oklahoma.

Life History

These bats are highly migratory, spending fall and winter in Mexico and returning to the southern United States in spring. Females are pregnant when they reach their maternity caves, where they gather in large numbers. They give birth to a single pup in late June, and young bats are able to fly six weeks later. Males that migrate to the United States form separate bachelor colonies. Mexican free-tailed bats feed while in flight, primarily on small, flying insects like moths, small wasps, and leaf beetles.

Wildlife Watching Tips

The Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Diversity Program offers the public a chance to watch Mexican free-tailed bats each summer as they emerge from Selman Bat Cave Wildlife Management Area. Selman Bat Cave is one of four caves in western Oklahoma that serves as a nursery cave for the migratory bats. Registration is required for this event and begins in late May each year.  

Learn more about this and other Oklahoma bats in the free "Bats of Oklahoma Field Guide." 

Explore more Oklahoma Mammals

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Photo by: Fred Shelton/RPS 2018
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Photo by: USFWS