Indiana Bats (Myotis sodalis) - Endangered
The Indiana bat is a small bat with dark gray to blackish-brown fur, found across much of the eastern United States. It is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It was first listed as a result of large numbers of Indiana bat deaths caused by human disturbances during hibernation.
Indiana bats hibernate during winter in caves or, occasionally, in abandoned mines. For hibernation, they require cool, humid caves with stable temperatures, under 50° fahrenheit, but above freezing. Very few caves within the range of the species have these conditions. However, Alabama is a state rich in karst geology favorable to caves. Currently, 10 caves (two Priority 3 and eight Priority 4 caves) in Blount, Colbert, DeKalb, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan, and Shelby counties are known, or believed, to harbor Indiana bat winter populations.
After hibernation, Indiana bats migrate to their summer habitat where they usually roost under loose tree bark on living, dead, or dying trees. During summer, males roost alone or in small groups, while females roost in larger groups of up to 100 bats or more. Indiana bats also forage in or along the edges of forested areas. Suitable summer habitat for Indiana bats consists of a wide variety of forested/wooded habitats where they roost, forage, and travel and may also include some adjacent, non-forested habitats such as emergent wetlands, agricultural edge fields, older fields and pastures. This includes forests and woodlots with potential roosts (i.e., live trees and/or snags ≥5 inches dbh19 (12.7 centimeter) with exfoliating bark, cracks, crevices, and/or hollows), as well as linear features such as fencerows, forests, and other wooded corridors. These wooded areas may be dense or loose aggregates of trees with variable amounts of canopy closure. Individual trees may be considered suitable habitat located within 1,000 feet of other forested/wooded habitat. Due to Alabama’s suitable summer habitat, the Service believes the Indiana bat could live anywhere in the state with similar habitat.
Procedures for Working with the Indiana Bat in Alabama
Alabama, like most states, is experiencing significant growth so the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of natural habitats may occur. Examples of development include: land clearing for development (residential, commercial, industrial, and other); utility line (gas, electric, water, sewer, etc.) construction and maintenance; wind energy projects; communication tower construction; and road construction and maintenance. Surface coal mining and silviculture (forest management and timber harvest) can also result in similar impacts to natural and semi-natural habitats.
These impacts have the potential to adversely affect the Indiana bat. Projects proposed in areas where suitable habitat occurs, and the Indiana bat is known or assumed to be present, require developers to determine if adverse effects to Indiana bats are likely to occur and, if so, how they can avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate those adverse effects.
In Alabama, avoidance measures for all projects that may impact Indiana bat habitat should follow the procedures outlined in the Range-wide Indiana Bat Protection and Enhancement Plan Guidelines (March 2020). The rules were developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Surface Mining, and representatives of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission. The guidelines also apply to other land-clearing projects within the state. The following guidance is provided for proposed projects in Alabama:
October 15 to March 31
Tree clearing should only occur from October 15 to March 31 on proposed project areas that:
Are within a 5-mile radius of a maternity capture record and no hibernaculum exists within a 5 mile radius of the project area; or
Are within a 2.5-mile radius of a male capture record and no hibernaculum exists within a 5 mile radius of the project area; or
Are within a 2.5-mile radius of a known maternity tree and no hibernaculum exists within a 5 mile radius of the project area; or
Contain potential summer habitat where, Indiana bat presence is assumed, and no hibernaculum exists within a 5 mile radius of the project area.
November 15 to March 31
Tree clearing should only occur from November 15 to March 31 on proposed project areas that:
Contain caves, underground mines, rock shelters, bridges, tunnels, dams, and other underground openings where Indiana bats have been recorded; or
Upon written agreement, the applicant and the Alabama Ecological Services Field Office may modify seasonal clearing dates based on specific data that would support such modifications.
If avoidance is not achievable, project proponents must take steps to ensure compliance with the ESA and avoid an illegal “take” of Indiana bats, a federally listed species. “Take” of federally listed species means “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct” and is prohibited pursuant to section 9 of the ESA. Violations of section 9 can lead to significant civil and/or criminal penalties. In general, project proponents have three primary options:
Surveys for Indiana bats in their summer habitat must follow the current survey guidance and have all necessary permits.
Surveys should follow the 2022 Range-wide Indiana Bat and Northern Long-eared Bat Survey Guidelines
2. Conducting informal and/or formal consultation under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA
Information on the section 7 consultation process may be found at: Link to Sections 7 national page.
For information or questions concerning consultations, please contact the Alabama Ecological Services Office at 251-441-5181.
3. Obtaining an Incidental Take Permit pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA.
Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA provides an opportunity for project proponents not receiving federal funding or authorizations to work with the Service under the Habitat Conservation Planning (HCP) process. To obtain an incidental take permit from the Service under section 10(a)(1)(b), the applicant must develop a Habitat Conservation Plan designed to offset any harmful effects the activity might have on the species. This process allows the project to proceed consistent with conserving the listed species through the issuance of an incidental take permit.