It's officially spring, and that means the bats are back.  Millions of Mexican Free-Tailed bats have begun to return to central Texas from Mexico.


  "From Mexico where they spend the winter to Central Texas," says Fran Hutchins of Bat Conservation International.  "They began returning a couple of weeks ago."


  The bats will soon fill up the Bracken Bat Cave in far north Bexar County, which is the largest colony of bats in the world.


  Hutchins says bat tourism is a growing attraction, and Hutchins says bat tours will soon begin.


  "You'll have the tours, the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin will be starting up there, and at the Camden Street Bridge near the Pearl Brewery you'll start seeing bats there, shortly."


  Hutchins says the bats are more than a curiosity.  They are the creature that allows agriculture to exist in this hot, arid, and insect-heavy climate.


  "All your cotton, corn farmers, even your pecan orchards, are all protected by the insects that they eat," he said.


  But bats are also leading carriers of rabies, and the San Antonio Metro Health District says children should never touch a bat.


  "If a bat is within a home or a building, try to confine the bat to a room or area by closing any open doors and windows," says a MHD news release.


  It advises calling 3-1-1 and getting an Animal Care Services officer to respond.


  Also, if any person or pet comes in contact with the bat, you are urged to call 3-1-1 so city officials can test the bat for rabies.


  Even though the huge colonies of bats are arriving in San Antonio this week, bats are here year round.   A colony of Mexican Free-Tailed bats forced the closure of a barracks at Lackland Air Force Base last January.