Bats in Alabama

Sixteen different bat species are found in the state of Alabama. Bats play an important role in our ecosystem because they help keep the insect population under control. One little bat can eat hundreds of pests! Due to their buggy appetites, bats also play a role in helping farmers protect their crops. Some bats even help pollinate other plants. 

Three species of bats in Alabama are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act. 

Gray bats emerging from Sauta Cave during a summer emergence count.

Gray Bats (Myotis grisescens) - Endangered 

Gray Bats are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. They are distinguished from other bats by the uni-colored fur on their backs. In addition, following their molt in July or August, gray bats have dark gray fur which often bleaches to a chestnut brown or russet. 

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, riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

Learn more about riparian
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. 

Avoidance 

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 

  • Are within a 10-mile radius of a P1 or P2 hibernaculum; or 

  • Are within a 5-mile radius of a P3 or P4 hibernaculum. 

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: 

1. Surveying 

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 Section 7 Section 7
Section 7 Consultation The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to work to conserve endangered and threatened species and to use their authorities to further the purposes of the Act. Section 7 of the Act, called "Interagency Cooperation," is the mechanism by which Federal agencies ensure the actions they take, including those they fund or authorize, do not jeopardize the existence of any listed species.

Learn more about Section 7
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. 

Northern Long-Eared Bats (Myotis septentrionalis) - Threatened with 4(d) Rule 

The northern long-eared bat is one of the species of bats most impacted by the disease white-nose syndrome. Due to declines caused by white-nose syndrome and continued spread of the disease, the northern long-eared bat was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on April 2, 2015. We also developed a final 4(d) rule, which published in the Federal Register on January 14, 2016. The 4(d) rule specifically defines the "take" prohibitions.

 

For information on the Key to 4(d) Rule and Do I Need A Permit, Optional Framework to Streamline Section 7 Section 7
Section 7 Consultation The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to work to conserve endangered and threatened species and to use their authorities to further the purposes of the Act. Section 7 of the Act, called "Interagency Cooperation," is the mechanism by which Federal agencies ensure the actions they take, including those they fund or authorize, do not jeopardize the existence of any listed species.

Learn more about Section 7
Consultation for the Northern Long-Eared Bat, and the Northern Long-Eared Bat 4(d) Rule Streamlined Consultation Form, please click the following link: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/mammals/nleb/ 

Click on the link for a copy of Northern Long-Eared Bat known hibernacula and maternity roosts in Alabama with an attached key to the 4(d) rule.:  Northern Long-Eared Bat Consultation Area and Final 4(D) Rule Guidance Flowchart For Alabama 

Additional Bat Links 

White-Nose Syndrome - White-nose syndrome is a disease affecting hibernating bats. Named for the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other body parts of hibernating bats, WNS is associated with extensive mortality of bats in eastern North America. 

USFWS_Range-wide_IBat_&_NLEB_Survey_Guidelines_2022.03.29

The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) was originally listed as being in danger of extinction under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 (32 FR 4001, March 11, 1967), and is currently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended. This survey...

Long, glossy fur, light brown to brown. Ears dark, usually black; longer than in any other myotis; when laid forward extend 1/4 cm (7 mm) beyond nose. Tragus long and thin. Calcar keeled.

FWS Focus

The Indiana bat is a medium-sized Myotis, closely resembling the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) but differing in coloration. Its fur is a dull grayish chestnut rather than bronze, with the basal portion of the hairs on the back a dull-lead color. This bat's underparts are pinkish to...

FWS Focus