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Goal: Sustain Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands Finding refuge in the Coastal Plain: Tricolored bats in an area free of white-nose syndrome

Wherever the fungal disease white-nose syndrome (WNS) occurs, tricolored bats have declined precipitously. But in areas where WNS does not occur, they are persisting. Ongoing studies of the roosting ecology of tricolored bats in a WNS-free zone during summer and winter will assist managers in conserving this species in these disease-free refugia.

A tricolored bat roosting under a bridge during winter. Courtesy photo by Blaise Newman, Clemson University.

Tricolored bats are being considered for listing as Threatened or Endangered Species. In some areas up to 90 percent have been killed by white-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS is a fungal disease that affects bats hibernating in caves and mines.

However, tricolored bats also live in areas where there are no caves or mines. Southern Research Station scientists studied tricolored bats in two such sites in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina. The goals of the research were to determine if these bat populations will be susceptible to WNS and to learn more about their roosting and foraging ecology.

During the summer, tricolored bats only roost in Spanish moss or in foliage, as the researchers found. In winter, they roost under bridges, in tree cavities or leaves, and in a variety of other places. Although temperatures in winter roosts are often in the growth range of the fungus that causes WNS, the research suggests that roost temperatures are highly variable and may not be amenable to development of the disease. The team also found that tricolored bats forage in different habitat types in summer and winter.

The results highlight the value of studying bats year-round and will help managers provide habitat for tricolored bats in areas where they are likely to persist long-term.

Principal Investigators
Susan C. Loeb, Research Ecologist
4157 - Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management
Strategic Program Area
Wildlife and Fish
Seasonal Shifts in Nocturnal Habitat Use by Coastal Bat Species
Summer roosting ecology of the northern yellow bat and tri-colored bat in coastal South Carolina
External Partners
Blaise Newman - Clemson University
Kyle Shute - Clemson University
David Jachowski - Clemson University
Palmetto Bluff Conservancy