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Natural Heritage Elements - Species Level


Important Bat Habitat 

Definition  

                 Two distinct habitats are recognized as critical for the persistence of a bat population - a winter hibernaculum and a summer roosting colony. A winter bat hibernaculum is a place , usually a cave or a mine ,“ that provides a constant temperature and protection for winter hibernation. Summer bat colonies consist of two types. Maternity colonies are where female bats congregate to give birth and raise young during the summer. These areas normally are found in trees with exfoliating bark and in tree cavities but may also be found in buildings. Foraging colonies are where bats congregate to feed during the summer months. Foraging colonies may be small and dispersed or may contain a large number of individuals. The large colonies are the most critical and often occur in the same habitats as maternity colonies.   

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Importance 

                 North America supports 39 species of bats, almost all of which feed at night on insects. During a typical night of foraging, a bat may eat as much as one-half its body weight in insects. There are nine bat species in Vermont : Indiana bat and small-footed bat are rare; northern long-eared bat, eastern pipistrelle, silver-haired bat, red bat, and hoary bat are uncommon; and little and big brown bats are common. The Indiana bat and the small-footed bat are protected by the Vermont State Endangered Species Law and are listed as Endangered and Threatened respectively. Of the nine Vermont species, six hibernate in the region while three , silver-haired, red, and hoary bats , migrate south. 

                Winter hibernacula for the six species of bats that over-winter in Vermont are mostly caves and mines. The big brown bat may also hibernate in attics. These sites provide near constant temperatures that are around 40 degrees. Bats go into a torpid state during this period and awaken infrequently. Continued disturbance can waken the bats, depleting necessary energy resources. A few of the larger hibernacula in the region have been gated to prevent disturbance. 

                Summer colonies are most often found in trees and buildings. Five of the nine bat species in Vermont form maternity colonies in groups, while others are found individually in trees. Choices for maternity colonies vary by species. Some bat species prefer trees with a loose bark structure, such as shagbark hickory or older trees. A number of the bat species will use buildings for maternity colonies. 

                Though the complete distribution and abundance of significant bat habitat is not yet known in Vermont, it is likely that only a few towns actually support these habitats.   

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Conservation Goals

         A town or other planning group might adopt goals like these for the conservation of important bat habitats: 

1.        Conserve or provide long-term stewardship of all bat hibernacula in a town or area of interest. 

2.        Protect important bat maternity and foraging colonies in the town. 

3.        Work with other towns to protect regionally important hibernacula. 

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Obtaining and Interpreting Information

Information Sources  

        See Resources for information on how to contact or visit the websites of the agencies and organizations mentioned below.

  • Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department: The Department has information on some of the important bat cave and mine sites in Vermont . The Department has also been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and volunteers in monitoring maternity and roosting colonies for Indiana bat and associated species.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: This Agency provides technical assistance in identifying important bat sites.

  • U.S. Forest Service: The Forest Service has site-level information on bat hibernacula and roosting areas.

  • Knowledgeable individuals: Cavers or bat experts in your town or elsewhere are often the best source of information.

  • The Nature Conservancy: This organization owns and manages bat hibernacula.

  • Bat Conservation International: This is a conservation group dedicated to protecting bats and their hibernacula. 

Interpreting the Information  

        Existing information on bat hibernacula may indicate which bat species occur at the site and their relative abundance. This can help assess the importance of a particular cave. Habitat known to house rare, threatened, and endangered bat species should be given priority in conservation decisions.   

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Conservation Strategies

         Once information has been gathered on bat hibernacula and colonies, you can develop specific conservation strategies to help achieve your goals. Some examples of strategies for each goal follow. 

       

1. Goal: Conserve or provide long-term stewardship for all bat hibernacula in the town.  

Strategy:  

        Make landowners and resource managers aware of any bat caves or mines in the town. Work with managers to develop cave management plans to protect the bats during the winter months. 

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2. Goal: Protect important bat colonies in the town.  

Strategy:  

        Hold an educational forum on bat conservation and train residents to identify maternity and foraging colonies. An outcome of such efforts may include conservation easements on lands/areas that support these habitats or placement of artificial bat house structures. 

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3. Goal: Work with other towns to protect regionally important hibernacula.  

Strategy:  

                Large bat hibernacula within the region may be critical to bat populations in a town or area of interest. Consider contacting towns and landowners of these hibernacula to develop cave conservation strategies and a cave management plan in consultation with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.  

 

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