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Maternity Colony of Eastern Small-footed Myotis (Myotis leibii) in a Historic Building
Joy M. O’Keefe and Michael LaVoie

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 10, Issue 2 (2011): 381–383

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Maternity Colony of Eastern Small-footed Myotis (Myotis leibii) in a Historic Building Joy M. O’Keefe1,2,* and Michael LaVoie3 Abstract - We report a maternity colony of the rare bat, Myotis leibii (Eastern Small-footed Myotis), in a high-elevation cabin in western North Carolina. Because Eastern Small-footed Myotis maternity colonies may typically roost in rock crevices, they are difficult to observe and are not well documented. This cabin provides a variety of roost locations (e.g., shutters, attic, boarded windows) for bats in a stable structure in a densely forested landscape. Little is known about summer roost selection of Myotis leibii Audubon and Bachman (Eastern Small-footed Myotis), which is thought to be one of the rarest bats in the United States (Best and Jennings 1997) and is listed as a vulnerable species in North Carolina (LeGrand et al. 2008). In the northeastern United States, Myotis bat populations have declined significantly due to White-nose Syndrome, an emerging infectious disease that is causing local extinctions of cave-wintering bat species (Veilleux 2008). A better understanding of the summer roosting ecology of Eastern Small-footed Myotis may be critical to conservation and recovery of this species. Rock crevices are considered preferred natural summer roosts for Eastern Smallfooted Myotis (Best and Jennings 1997); in the only published radio telemetry study on the species, Johnson and Gates (2008) found individual females roosting alone in crevices in rock outcrops in shale barrens near a hibernaculum. Most reports of Eastern Small-footed Myotis summer roost locations are unpublished anecdotes. For example, in New Hampshire, maternity colonies of ≤13 Eastern Small-footed Myotis have been observed in rock outcrops (J. Veilleux, Franklin-Pierce University, Rindge, NH, unpubl. data.) and, in Kentucky, a maternity colony of ≤20 bats were noted to be roosting in the guardrail crevices in a concrete bridge (J. MacGregor, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Frankfort, KY, unpubl. data). In North and South Carolina, Eastern Small-footed Myotis have been observed in guardrail crevices of bridges and roadside rock crevices (J.M. O’Keefe, pers. observ.), behind shutters on a residence (S. Bosworth, Asheville, NC, unpubl. data.), and in a wood pile and picnic shelter (S. Loeb, USDA Forest Service, Clemson, SC, unpubl. data). In July 1953, a colony of “about a dozen” Eastern Small-footed Myotis were found behind a shed door in Renfrow County, ON, Canada (Hitchcock 1955). While conducting a mistnetting survey to assess Myotis sodalis Miller and Allen (Indiana Myotis) presence, we documented a maternity colony of Eastern Small-footed Myotis using a high-elevation historic cabin (1447 m) on property of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Swain County, NC. The exact date of construction for the cabin is unknown, but tribal records suggest it was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps – Indian Division, and its structural integrity has been maintained. The 60-m² stick-built cabin was in a 0.2-ha clearing on a ridgetop at the end of a 1.2-km gravel road and surrounded by mature (>70 years old) oak-birch-hemlock (Quercus-Betula- Tsuga) forest. The second- and third-growth mature forest within 3 km of the cabin 1USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, 233 Lehotsky Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 29803. 2Current address - Department of Biology, 600 Chesnut Street, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809. 3Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, PO Box 455, Cherokee, NC 28719. *Corresponding author - joyokeefe@gmail.com. Notes of the Southeastern Nat u ral ist, Issue 10/2, 2010 381 382 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 10, No. 2 was lightly dissected by roads, rights-of-way, and small openings. Our mist nets were set where the gravel road crossed a small right-of-way corridor ≈250 m from the cabin; we set 2 nets (6 m x 5.6 m) ≈30 m apart and checked them every 10–15 min for 4.5–5.5 hours after dusk on 10 and 11 July 2008. Prior to netting, we determined that bats were roosting under the cedar shakes on the covered porch outside of the cabin; thus, we enclosed the porch entrance with a 2.6- x 2.6-m net and monitored this net continuously for 30 minutes after dusk on 10 July 2008. We identified bats to species and recorded sex, age, reproductive condition, mass (g), and forearm length (mm). Degree of ossification of the finger joints was used to assess age (juvenile or adult, Anthony 1988). Some bats were banded with a unique aluminum forearm band (USFS-SRS or USFS-NC, Porzana Ltd., East Sussex, UK), and we used a 3-mm biopsy punch to take 2 wing punches from each captured bat; these punches served as a temporary mark for bats not banded. While handling bats, we followed the guidelines of the American Society of Mammalogists for the use of wild mammals in research (Gannon et al. 2007), and all bats were released at the point of capture. We captured 38 bats over 2 net nights: 1 Eptesicus fuscus Beauvois (Big Brown Bat), 2 Lasiurus borealis Muller (Eastern Red Bat), 33 Eastern Small-footed Myotis, 1 Myotis lucifugus LeConte (Little Brown Myotis), and 1 Myotis septentrionalis Trouessart (Northern Long-eared Myotis). Only Eastern Small-footed Myotis (n = 18) were captured in the net set at the doorway to the cabin porch, while Eastern Smallfooted Myotis and other species were captured in nets over the road on both nights. Most (n = 22) Eastern Small-footed Myotis were adult females that were either lactating or post-lactating. We also captured 1 non-reproductive adult male, 3 juvenile males, and 7 juvenile females. Six juvenile Eastern Small-footed Myotis (3 male, 3 female) were banded. One banded juvenile female was captured in the cabin net on 10 July and recaptured in a road net on 11 July. On 4 May 2010, we conducted a visual inspection and emergence count at the cabin to assess colony presence and size. We observed bats roosting in 2 places inside the cabin; 2–4 Eastern Small-footed Myotis were in a closet and ≥10 bats (undetermined species) were in the attic. Six observers stationed around the cabin observed ≈92 bats exiting from 4 points in the cabin. Forty-four bats exited from 2 holes leading to the attic, 31 came from under porch shingles and an attic access point beside the chimney, and 17 bats emerged from behind a boarded window. Because we did not handle the bats, we cannot be certain that all of the bats exiting the cabin were Eastern Smallfooted Myotis. Based on published literature and conversations with other biologists who study Eastern Small-footed Myotis, we believe this cabin has housed a relatively large maternity colony of Eastern Small-footed Myotis (>18 individuals) for ≥3 years. Larger aggregations of Eastern Small-footed Myotis have been found in winter; for example, 47 used an abandoned railroad tunnel in Maryland (Johnson and Gates 2008), and 108 were found hibernating in a mine in Haywood County, NC (K. Weeks, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Asheville, NC, pers. comm.). There is no evidence that Eastern Small-footed Myotis are using 2 newer, well-sealed buildings ≤20 m from the cabin or that other bat species are using the historic cabin. The maternity colony of Eastern Small-footed Myotis may show long-term fidelity (Lewis 1995) to the cabin because it is a permanent stable structure and because it offers a variety of roost locations that likely vary in temperature regimes. When considering the surrounding landscape, the cabin may be a surrogate for natural roosts like rock crevices, which are sparse in the area within 5 km of the cabin. Further, the dense mature forest 2011 Southeastern Naturalist Notes 383 surrounding the cabin may be ideal foraging grounds for Eastern Small-footed Myotis (Johnson et al. 2009). Acknowledgments. We thank Josh Parker (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians), Dylan Horvath (Binghamton University), Dorothy Brown (University of North Carolina, Asheville), Vanessa Rojas (University of Michigan, Flint), and Matthew Conzett for field assistance. Comments from two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript. Literature Cited Anthony, E.L.P. 1988. Age determination. Pp. 47–57, In T.H. Kunz (Ed.). Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Best, T.L., and J.B. Jennings. 1997. Myotis leibii. Mammalian Species No. 547:1–6. Gannon, W.L., R.S. Sikes, and the Animal Care and Use Committee of the American Society of Mammologists. 2007. Guidelines of the American Society of Mammologists for the use of wild mammals in research. Journal of Mammology 88:809–823. Hitchcock, H.B. 1955. A summer colony of the Least Bat, Myotis subulatus leibii (Audubon and Bachman). Canadian Field Naturalist 69:31. Johnson, J.B., and J.E. Gates. 2008. Spring migration and roost selection of female Myotis leibii in Maryland. Northeastern Naturalist 15:453–460. Johnson, J.B., J.E. Gates, and W.M. Ford. 2009. Notes on foraging activity of female Myotis leibii in Maryland. Research Paper NRS-8. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Newtown Square, PA. 8pp. LeGrand, H.E., S.E. McRae, S.P. Hall, and J.T. Finnegan. 2008. Natural Heritage Program list of the rare animal species of North Carolina. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh, NC. 122 pp. Lewis, S.E. 1995. Roost fidelity in bats: A review. Journal of Mammalogy 76:481–496. Veilleux, J.P. 2008. Current status of White-nose Syndrome in the northeastern United States. Bat Research News 49:15–17.