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Biologists collecting a swab sample of bat skin. Photo by Rose Railey, USFWS.

Searching for the northern long-eared bat in unexpected places

In early March, a group of biologists captured four Northern Long-Eared Bat (NLEB) on two separate surveys at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County, NC and the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge in Bertie County, NC. A total of 40 bats from six different species were captured during the two outings. The crew examined and tested the bats for the fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome (WNS) and then released them unharmed. All bats tested negative for the fungus.

The goal of the surveys was to find evidence of the NLEB roosting in North Carolina’s Coastal Plain during the winter, where the species had never been found. The NLEB is known to be in the western part of the state hibernating in caves and mines and is not expected to hang around the coast during the winter months. One of the bats most impacted by the WNS disease, the NLEB received protection by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) as a threatened species on April 2, 2015. In 2016, the Service published a final 4(d) Rule, a provision of the Endangered Species Act, which specifies “take” prohibitions thereby giving land owners and managers some flexibility in how they implement conservation measures for protecting the species. However, in coastal North Carolina, it is tough to design conservation measures for the NLEB because little is known about its wintering habitat outside of caves. The Service is interested in the possibility of a distinct coastal North Carolina population that does not migrate or hibernate in caves. Such a population could supplement the bat population at risk of WNS in the western mountains. Service and state biologists plan to intensify the search for NLEB on other federal lands along the coast over the next month.

The team assessing NLEB conditions on Coastal North Carolina includes: Michael Morse, lead biologist, Raleigh FO; Ryan Nordsven, biologist, Raleigh FO; Jean Richter, biologist, Roanoke River NWR; Rosetta Railey, bio-tech, Roanoke River NWR; Shawn Olson, bio-tech, Raleigh FO; Elaine Barr, bio-tech, Pocosin Lakes NWR; Gary Jordan, biologist, Raleigh FO; and Andrea Shipley, biologist, NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Other independent research efforts funded by the NC Department of Transportation captured NLEB in the northern part of the NC Coastal Plain outside of Dare County in Nov-Dec 2015 and Feb 2016.


Lilibeth Serrano, (252) 933-225

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