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Myotis leibii (Eastern Small-footed Myotis) Roosting in Buildings of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Kirstin E. Fagan, Emma V. Willcox, Riley F. Bernard, and William H. Stiver

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 15, Issue 2 (2016): N23–N27

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N23 2016 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 15, No. 2 K.E. Fagan, E.V. Willcox, R.F. Bernard, and W.H. Stiver Myotis leibii (Eastern Small-footed Myotis) Roosting in Buildings of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee Kirstin E. Fagan1,*, Emma V. Willcox1, Riley F. Bernard1, 2, and William H. Stiver2 Abstract - Myotis leibii (Eastern Small-footed Myotis) are infrequently encountered across their range, and as a result, little is known about their summer roosting ecology. This species is not federally protected, but receives legal protection in many states, including Tennessee. Additional information on the species, particularly its summer roosting ecology, is needed to inform appropriate management and conservation planning. While conducting a summer survey of multiple bat species using buildings as roosts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we discovered Eastern Small-footed Myotis roosting in 3 historic buildings on the northwest slope of Mount LeConte. At least 1 building contained a maternity colony. Humans used all 3 buildings on a daily basis. Myotis leibii (Audubon and Bachman) (Eastern Small-footed Myotis) is considered rare across most of its range (Best and Jennings 1997). The species is infrequently encountered; thus, its summer roosting ecology is poorly understood. The fungal disease white-nose syndrome was first documented in North America in 2006. Since then, populations of some species of Myotis have undergone significant declines across the eastern US (Frick et al. 2010, Moosman et al. 2013, Turner et al. 2011). In 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service found that available data on Eastern Small-footed Myotis did not warrant federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (USFWS 2013). However, this species receives statelevel protection in some states, including Tennessee, where it is listed as a species of special concern and deemed in need of research and management. Research to provide information on the distribution and habitat needs of the Eastern Small-footed Myotis is a top priority (TWRA 2015). More specifically, managers in Tennessee and other southeastern states need comprehensive and accurate information on the roosting behaviors of this species; information about maternity roosts is particularly lacking. During summer, crevices in rocky outcroppings, talus slopes, and small boulders with high solar-exposure are considered preferred natural roosts for Eastern Small-footed Myotis (Erdle and Hobson 2001, Johnson et al. 2011, Moosman et al. 2015, Tuttle and Heaney 1974), but the species is known to utilize anthropogenic surrogates, including bridges and tunnels (Best and Jennings 1997, Johnson and Gates 2008, Thomson 2013). Published observations of Eastern Small-footed Myotis using buildings as summer roosts, however, are relatively uncommon. Among published records for the southeastern US, O’Keefe and LaVoie (2010) discovered a maternity colony of ≥18 bats in an 85-y-old cabin at 1447 m in elevation, on property of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation in Swain County, NC. Neuhauser (1971) published the first record of the species in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM), and observed a single, non-reproductive adult female entering a hiking cabin at 675 m in elevation in Greenbrier Cove, Sevier County, TN. In Mammoth Cave National Park, KY, Barbour (1963) reported a male of unknown age that had been found dead in a campground restroom. In the northern regions of the species’ range, maternity colonies have been found in buildings (Merritt 1987) and sliding doors of various 1Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. 2Great Smoky Mountains National Park, National Park Service, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. *Corresponding author - Manuscript Editor: Roger Perry Notes of the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 15/2, 2016 2016 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 15, No. 2 N24 K.E. Fagan, E.V. Willcox, R.F. Bernard, and W.H. Stiver outbuildings (Harvey et al. 2001, Hitchcock 1955), in addition to natural roosts (Johnson et al. 2011; Moosman et al. 2013, 2015). From 15 May to 14 August 2015, we surveyed 145 buildings in GRSM (Tennessee and North Carolina) as part of a broader study examining use of buildings by multiple bat species during summer. When bats were located, we counted individuals and identified them to species. We captured bats by hand if feasible, avoiding adult females with pups. If we incidentally captured adult females with pups, we immediately returned them to the roost. We recorded age, sex, reproductive status, mass (g), and forearm length (mm) for adults and volant juveniles. We banded adults with individually numbered 2.4-mm split-ringaluminum bands on their forearm (Porzana Ltd., East Sussex, UK). After processing, we returned each bat to the roost. We assessed human activity and structural characteristics at each building, including type, design, and construction; presence of human disturbance; and ease of access by bats to the interior (i.e., airtight building or open windows and doors). We placed Thermocron iButtons (Model DS1921, Maxim Integrated, San Jose, CA), wrapped in a layer of 2-mm polystyrene to attenuate ultrasound emitted by the device, at roost sites to record temperature to the nearest 0.1 °C at 60-min intervals . While conducting our surveys, we observed Eastern Small-footed Myotis occupying 3 buildings in GRSM, 2 of which were classified as historic buildings. These buildings were located within the LeConte Creek, Roaring Fork, and Baskin’s Creek watersheds on the northwest slope of Mount LeConte, outside Gatlinburg, TN. Combined, these watersheds cover 3914 ha of rocky upland terrain and are dissected by a single road that allows access to National Park Service (NPS) buildings and others managed by NPS for cultural heritage and tourism along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, including the 3 historic structures mentioned above. Building A was an 85-y-old, 2-story, 395.0-m2 (4252-ft2) structure with an irregular floor plan (i.e., not rectangular), multiple perpendicular gables with dormers, a wrap-around porch at the northeast corner, and a small, second-story back porch at the southwest corner. The structure consisted of horizontally laid logs, masonry, partial wood-shingle siding, a wood-shingled main roof, and a corrugated-tin porch roof. The interior was modern and airtight. The building was used as an office and occupied daily by NPS personnel. It was located with 5 other NPS buildings in a 1.32-ha clearing at an elevation of 601 m. Surrounding habitat consisted of floodplain, oak–hickory, and hardwood cove forest. We observed Eastern Small-footed Myotis at Building A on 5 occasions at 3 roosts. On the northeast porch, 1 roost was in a rotting rafter (Fig. 1a), and a second roost was a few meters away in a crevice between the roof and rafters (Fig. 1b). Due to the proximity of these 2 roosts, we only placed one iButton to record temperature (daytime temperature = 23.7 °C ± 3.8 °C [mean ± SD], nighttime temperature = 21.8 °C ± 2.1 °C). The third roost was on the floor joists under the southwest porch (Fig. 1c; daytime temperature = 22.0 °C ± 2.4 °C, nighttime temperature = 21.1 °C ± 1.7 °C). Prior to June 16, we noted fresh guano only under the southwest porch. On 16 June, we observed 17 bats roosting on the northeast porch in the rotting rafter, and we captured 4 lactating females, 1 female with an attached pup, and 4 volant juveniles. On 2 July, 3 July, and 8 July, we observed a total of 15 volant bats of unknown age at the northeast and southwest porch roosts. On 11 August, we observed 2 volant bats in the crevice between the rafters and roof of the northeast porch, 1 of which we captured and identified as an adult non-reproductive female. Our observations suggest that Eastern Small-footed Myotis used this roost location for most of the summer maternity period. Building B was a 129-y-old, 2-story, 49.8-m2 (536-ft2) cabin, consisting of 2 rooms, each with a fireplace connected to a central chimney, with a common wood-shingled gable N25 2016 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 15, No. 2 K.E. Fagan, E.V. Willcox, R.F. Bernard, and W.H. Stiver roof and a small attached room on the west side. It was constructed of logs covered by sawn board panels on the interior and exterior, and was painted on the exterior. The doors were permanently open; thus, the building was not airtight. The stairway that allowed access to the attic was closed off, but we investigated the space using a flashlight through gaps around the chimney. Building B was located in the center of a 0.08-ha clearing at 647 m elevation. We observed Eastern Small-footed Bats at Building B on 2 occasions. On 8 July, we captured 4 individuals roosting together on a ceiling beam in the northeast corner of the south main room (daytime temperature = 23.0 °C ± 2.3 °C, nighttime temperature = 22.1 °C ± 1.5 °C): 2 adult post-lactating females, 1 volant juvenile male, and 1 volant juvenile female. On 11 August, we captured 1 adult scrotal male Eastern Small-footed Bat and 1 adult scrotal male Eptesicus fuscus (Beauvois) (Big Brown Bat) that were roosting 2 m apart on the north-most ceiling beam of the north main room. This beam was similar in appearance and structure to the one described above (Fig. 1d; no temperature data available). Figure 1. Roosts found in buildings in the Twin Creeks area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. (a) Eastern Small-footed Myotis roost in rotting rafter on the northeast porch of Building A. (b) Eastern Small-footed Myotis roost in crevice between the roof and rafters on the northeast porch of Building A; (c) Eastern Small-footed Myotis roost on floor joist under the southwest porch of Building A; (d) Big Brown Bat roosting 2 m right of Eastern Small-footed Myotis roost on ceiling beam in Building B; and (e) Eastern Small-footed Myotis roost on ceiling beam in front of a fireplace in Building C. 2016 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 15, No. 2 N26 K.E. Fagan, E.V. Willcox, R.F. Bernard, and W.H. Stiver Building C was a 135-y-old, 1.5-story, 42.3-m2 (455-ft2) structure, consisting of 2 rooms that each had a fireplace and were connected by a central breezeway, all under a woodshingled gable roof. There was no interior or exterior wall covering except some limited paneling at the gable ends. The building was not airtight because the doors and windows were permanently open. The attic space above each room was reachable only by ladder through an access hole. Building C was at an elevation of 699 m in the center of a 0.13-ha clearing, which also contained a similarly constructed 0.09-m2 (114-ft2) structure where we detected no bats. Building C was located 600 m north of Building B, and tourists visited both buildings every day during the summer months. Vegetation in proximity of both cabins consisted of hardwood acid cove, chestnut–oak, and mixed-hardwo od–pine forest. We found 1 dead adult female Eastern Small-footed Myotis at Building C on 8 July. Examination suggested she was lactating or post-lactating. We found the bat on the ground directly adjacent to the northwest end of the breezeway. We observed no obvious signs of fracture or other trauma, and due to the absence of rigor mortis and lack of fly eggs or larvae, suspect the individual had died recently. We collected this bat and stored it at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Though we only detected 1 bat at this building, we observed guano inside the cabin throughout the summer, particularly under beams in the southeast room in front of the fireplace (Fig. 1e; daytime temperature = 21.6 °C ± 2.8 °C, nighttime temperature = 20.6 °C ± 2.1 °C). We found evidence that Eastern Small-Footed Myotis used all 3 buildings throughout the summer, with at least 1 confirmed as a maternity colony. We first found lactating females with attached young, as well as some volant juveniles, in the buildings in mid-June. Our findings agree with those of Best and Jennings (1997), who reported parturition in May or June, and Johnson et al. (2011), who noted the first capture of a lactating female of the species on 2 June. However, Moosman et al. (2015) did not observe lactating females until late June, and reported lactating females and volant juveniles into mid-July; females we captured during mid-July were post-lactating. We caught a scrotal male Eastern Small-footed Myotis in mid-August slightly earlier than Moosman et al. (2015), who did not report scrotal males until early September. We observed lactating and post-lactating female and juvenile Eastern Small-footed Myotis roosting in GRSM historic buildings despite considerable human disturbance and an abundance of rocky terrain in the immediate area that appeared suitable for roosting. Although buildings may provide benefits, including reduced predation and preferred microclimatic conditions (Lausen and Barclay 2006), the buildings where we observed bats were used by humans each day, often for prolonged periods. Studies examining the use of buildings by other bat species indicate human disturbance may negatively affect survival rates (López-Roig and Serra-Cobo 2014), and bats may select structures with low human activity (De Boer et al. 2013, White 2004). Further research is needed to avoid negatively impacting Eastern Small-footed Myotis and understand their roosting preferences. Future work on this species should include repeated surveys of buildings, intensive searching for natural roosts, investigation of the costs and benefits of different roost locations, and exploration of roost fidelity and potential maternity networks incorporating both buildings and natural roost sites. This knowledge could be used to improve management of buildings to benefit these bats across the species range, including timing of maintenance activities and, if necessary, restriction of human access. Ultimately, these research results would allow managers to better balance bat conservation, cultural resource preservation, and public health concerns, which are important considerations in protected areas. When making management decisions regarding buildings N27 2016 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 15, No. 2 K.E. Fagan, E.V. Willcox, R.F. Bernard, and W.H. Stiver in forested areas, we suggest structures not yet surveyed for bats should be considered potential bat roosts during the summer months. Acknowledgments. This research was funded by the National Park Service. We would like to thank Shelby Cotham and Michael Barnes for their help with fieldwork a nd data collection. Literature Cited Barbour, R.W. 1963. Additional bat records from Kentucky. Journal of Mammalogy 44:122–123. Best, T.L, and J.B. Jennings. 1997. Myotis leibii. Mammalian Species No. 547:1–6. De Boer, W.F., S. Van De Koppel, H.J. De Knegt, and J.J.A. Dekker. 2013. Hibernation site requirements of bats in man-made hibernacula in a spatial context. Ecological Applications 23:502−514. Erdle, S.Y., and C.S. Hobson. 2001. Current status and conservation strategy for the Eastern Smallfooted Myotis (Myotis leibii). Heritage Technical Report No. 00-19. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 17 pp. Frick, W.F., J.F. 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Maternity colony of Eastern Small-footed Bat (Myotis leibii) in a historic building. Southeastern Naturalist 10:381–383. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). 2015. Tennessee’s state wildlife action plan. Available online at Accessed 6 January 2015. Thomson, T. 2013. Roost ecology of Eastern Small-footed Bats (Myotis leibii) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. M.Sc. Thesis. Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN. 75 pp. Turner, G.G., D.M. Reeder, and J.T.H. Coleman. 2011. A five-year assessment of mortality and geographic spread of white-nose syndrome in North American bats and a look to the future. Bat Research News 52:13–27. Tuttle, M.D. and L.R. Heaney. 1974. Maternity habits of Myotis leibii in South Dakota. Southern California Academy of Science Bulletin 73:80–83. US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2013. 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