Habitat Associations of Bats in South-central West Virginia

We conducted acoustic surveys at National Park Service and state park properties in south-central West Virginia to create bat habitat association models across a large, topographically complex and relatively intact Appalachian Hardwood landscape representative of the Allegheny Plateau portion of the central Appalachians. We developed generalized and species-specific groups of a priori habitat association models to predict bat presence using various microhabitat and landscape features linked to body-size, wing morphology, food habits and echolocation call characteristics for seven species. Habitat associations for the species generally followed expectations based on previous research in the region. Although variable among species, riparian areas were important components of foraging habitat, with open, less structurally cluttered zones most important for little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), eastern pipistrelles (Pipistrellus subflavus), and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), and to a lesser extent eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis). Riparian areas with closed-canopy forests were important for Indiana myotis (M. sodalis) and northern myotis (M. septentrionalis). Current regulations and guidelines that ensure protection and maintenance of riparian health and integrity concomitantly will provide protection of important bat foraging habitat in the region.

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