There are as many as 500,000 bats living in Carlsbad caves, and the national park wonders if a recent visitor has taken the mythology a little too seriously by bringing a wooden stake to the front door of the colony.

NPS / Nick Hristov

No less than 500,000 bats live in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and officials wonder if a recent visitor has taken the vampire tradition a little too seriously – by bringing a wooden stake to the front door of the colony.

“It looks like one of our visitors was ready to hunt vampires,” Carlsbad Caverns officials posted on Facebook.

“This wooden stake was left in the bat flight amphitheater. However, no garlic was found by park rangers.

The park shared a photo of the stake, with the amphitheater in the background. How someone got the stake past the front door was not mentioned.

Legend has it that vampires travel great distances transforming into bats – and a wooden stake is the best defense.

And, yes, vampire bats are real, but don’t live in the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert, the park said.

“Of the 17 different bat species known to have inhabited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, none are considered a vampire bat,” the officials wrote.

“There are three species of bats in Mexico and South America that depend on blood for a food source. The common vampire bat will lap up the blood of other mammals while the hairy-legged vampire bat and white-winged vampire bat will feed on the blood of birds. It is only in rare situations that humans are vulnerable to bites.

The find was shared on social media as such things pose a threat to the 46,766-acre park and its 120 caves, officials said.

“All jokes aside, we would like to remind everyone that the Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a fragile resource that we can all collectively preserve,” the park wrote.

“Objects as seemingly harmless as a wooden stake can be harmful to wildlife and disrupt the natural growth processes in caves.”

As for what the bats in the park like to eat, they are mostly “moths and beetles,” officials said.

“The large colony that sleeps inside the cave can consume a few tons of these insects per night,” the park wrote.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering topics such as schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness, and non-profit organizations. He graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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