Non-game Management

Looking for the bat cave

Bats serve a variety of ecological roles such as insect predators, prey, pollinators, and seed dispersers. Because of their sensitivity to pollution and habitat disturbance, they also serve as indicators of forest health. However, until recently, bats have largely been ignored in wildlife research. Populations of Rafinesque’s big-eared bat and southeastern myotis are believed to be declining throughout most of their range. Forest and Wildlife Research Center scientists are conducting a study to characterize and evaluate the availability and use of diurnal roosts for Rafinesque’s big-eared bat and southeastern myotis. The study is examining the selection of roosts based on availability of cavity trees in the bottomland hardwood tracts of Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. During the course of the study, various bottomland hardwood sites were surveyed and characterized by age of stand, predominant vegetation, and current and past management practices. Sites were specifically chosen based on these differences to gather a more comprehensive representation of forests in the southeast. Stevenson’s research includes smaller cavity trees as well as large, mature trees, providing an indication of potentially important cavity trees that will be a part of the forest stand in the future. The study is also considering man-made structures like bridges that are used as roosts by these species. Preservation of these sites may be imperative to the conservation of several colonies of Rafinesque’s big-eared bat and southeastern myotis. Important roosts or potential roost trees in each habitat will be identified and the most valuable habitat qualities considered by bats will be revealed. This study will help develop conservation measures that integrate retention of natural roost sites with forest management in bottomland hardwood forests. Recommendations for habitat conservation and management for these species derived from this research will be incorporated into the wildlife and habitat management planning on the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge.