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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Broad-scale geographic and temporal assessment of northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) maternity colony–landscape association

Katherine M. Gorman*, Sabrina M. Deeley, Elaine L. Barr, Samuel R. Freeze, Nicholas Kalen, Michael S. Muthersbaugh, W. Mark Ford

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As the federally threatened northern long-eared bat Myotis septentrionalis continues to decline due to white-nose syndrome (WNS) impacts, the application of effective conservation measures is needed but often hindered by the lack of ecological data. To date, recommended management practices have been adopted in part from other federally listed sympatric species such as the endangered Indiana bat M. sodalis. During the maternity season, these measures have largely focused on conservation of known day-roost habitat, often with little consideration for foraging habitat, particularly riparian areas. We examined acoustic activity of northern long-eared bats relative to day-roost and capture data at coastal and interior sites in the District of Columbia, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia over the course of 6 summers (2015–2020) where maternity activity was still documented after the initial arrival and spread of WNS. Acoustic activity of northern long-eared bats relative to forest cover decreased at the acoustic site level (fine scale) but increased at the sampling region level (coarse scale). We observed a positive association of northern long-eared bat acoustic activity with riparian areas. Additionally, we observed higher levels of activity during pregnancy through early lactation period of the reproductive cycle prior to juvenile volancy. Our findings suggest the need for more explicit inclusion of forested riparian habitats in northern long-eared bat conservation planning. Acoustic sampling in spring and early summer rather than mid- to late summer and in forested riparian areas is the most effective strategy for identifying potential active northern long-eared bat maternity colonies on the local landscape.