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Northern Long-eared Bat

Overview

The northern long-eared bat was listed as a federally threatened species in 2015. The steep declines of this species are largely due to White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that affects mainly cave-dwelling bats. Since the discovery of the fungus in Ohio in 2011, some bat populations have declined an average of 97%.

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(Photo on left courtesy of Jomegat)

Description

This medium-sized bat looks very much like other members of the Myotis species, such as the little brown bat. However, it can be easily distinguished from its cousins by its long ears and pointy tragus, a prominence on the middle of the external ear. The fur is similar to a little brown bat, except that it has less variation in the tone of the brown.

Reproduction

In the fall, bats exhibit a behavioral phenomenon known as “swarming.” During this time, large numbers of bats visit and congregate in a succession of caves just prior to hibernation. Although sperm is transferred to the female during mating, ovulation and fertilization of the egg are delayed until the female arouses from hibernation the following spring. When the female arouses, she then gestates between six and nine weeks before having pups in early to mid-June. Female northern long-eared bats normally only have one pup. Females will often move the pups to different roosts every two to three days during the summer until the bats are weaned, in about four weeks’ time.

Habitat & Behavior

Northern long-eared bats eat a variety of insects, including moths, beetles, caddisflies, and flies. Some studies show that, in addition to catching prey while flying, these bats will capture stationary insects such as spiders from the surface of leaves or the ground, a feeding behavior known as gleaning. During the summer, northern long-eared bats can be found inhabiting forests and woodlands, particularly upland forests. Females may form small maternity colonies, ranging from just a few bats to around 60 individuals. These colonies are often found in cracks, cavities, and under the bark of dead or living trees. Males are solitary roosters.

In the winter, this species hibernates in caves and abandoned mines (called hibernacula) from November to March. They like to nestle into small holes and crevices and can often be found hibernating in association with little brown bats, big brown bats, eastern small-footed bats, and tri-colored bats. Caves and mines are included in the Cave Protection Act portion of the Ohio Revised Code 1517. This cave protection act ensures that cave life and material is conserved, including bats hibernating within them.