Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus - Handley, 1955
Virginia Big-eared Bat
Synonym(s): Plecotus townsendii virginianus
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Plecotus townsendii virginianus (Handley, 1955) (TSN 195668)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100716
Element Code: AMACC08012
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Bats
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Chiroptera Vespertilionidae Corynorhinus
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 750 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B99WIL01NACA
Name Used in Concept Reference: Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus
Taxonomic Comments: Formerly included in the genus Plecotus (see taxonomic comments for C. townsendii).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4T4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 18Dec2018
Global Status Last Changed: 18Dec2018
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: T4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: The status of this species has improved in the last few decades. The majority of consequential hibernacula and maternity sites have been protected and/or gated or fenced. Virginia Big-eared Bat counts are also increasing at nearly all sites.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (18Dec2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Kentucky (S1), North Carolina (S1), Tennessee (S1), Virginia (S1), West Virginia (S2)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (30Nov1979)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R5 - Northeast

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extent was calculated using the minimum convex polygon (MCP) at 96,780.244 sq km. Although the majority of sites are in discrete areas (see Whitaker and Hamilton 1998), there are still unknown sites that likely exist within the MCP.

Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and eastern Kentucky. Presently occurs in decreased numbers throughout much of the historic range. Largest colonies are in several caves in Pendleton County, West Virginia; some caves serve as both hibernation and maternity sites, others are primarily maternity caves Colonies occur also in Lee County and surrounding counties, Kentucky (the best known site being Stillhouse Cave); in Bath, Highland, Rockingham, Bland, and Tazewell counties, Virginia (Dalton 1987); and in Avery and Watauga counties, North Carolina (including Black Rock Cliffs Cave) See Matthews and Moseley (1990) and Handley (1991).

Area of Occupancy: 501-2,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: Area of occupancy was calculated at 624 4-sq km grid cells.

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: As of review in 2018, there are 217 occurrences.

Population Size: 10,000 - 100,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: 5-year review (2008) recorded 11,694 in hibernacula and 7,630 from maternity colonies. These seasonal counts certainly include some of the same individuals.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Some (13-40)
Viability/Integrity Comments: As of review in 2018, 23 element occurrences have good to excellent estimated viability/ecological integrity or higher.

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Limestone quarrying is occurring near Hellhole Cave, which is used by Virginia Big-eared Bats (among others) as a hibernacula (FWS 2008). The site does have a network of sensors that will signal if quarrying operations can detected within the cave (C. Stihler pers. comm.). Should quarrying affect the Hellhole Cave population, the impact could be serious.

Virginia Big-eared Bats are highly sensitive to human disturbance, and may completely abandon hibernation or maternity sites (Barbour and Davis 1969, Pearson et al. 1952). The popularity increase in cave exploration is tied to the Virginia Big-eared Bat decline in the decades prior to listing (Bagley 1984). The majority of hibernation and maternity sites have been gated or are fenced, however, periodic gate and fence breaches still do occur (FWS 2008, C. Stihler pers. comm.).

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is now found throughout the Virginia Big-eared Bat's range. Although heterospecifics from the same sites have been dramatically impacted by WNS, Virginia Big-eared Bats appear to not be affected (Turner et al. 2011). Work by Danford et al. (2018) suggested that the large pararhinal glands of Virginia Big-eared Bats may secrete anti-fungal compounds that inhibit the growth of filamentous fungi on the skin. Feral cats have been observed predating Virginia Big-eared Bats (FWS 2008).

Raccoons, bobcats, skunks, screech owls and eastern rat snakes are all suspected predators of Virginia Big-eared Bats, though predation appears to be uncommon (FWS 2008).

Short-term Trend: Increase of >25%
Short-term Trend Comments: When listed (1979), the known hibernating population of this species was 2,585 and the known maternity colony population was approximately 3,600. Since then, much more survey work has better established the distribution of this taxon, and the increase in current known numbers is mostly reflective of closing knowledge gaps. USFWS (2008) reported the known hibernating population was 11,694, and the known maternity population was 7,630. Examining data for individual sites may be a better metric for recovery, and over a 10-year period (2007-2017), the population of hibernating Virginia Big-eared Bats has steadily increased from 5,006 to 13,493 (Stihler 2017). Similarly, a maternity colony increased from 160 (1983) to 1,038 (2005) once the cave was gated to protect the colony from disturbance (FWS 2008). Increases are reported from the majority of hibernacula counts and maternity counts.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 30-70%
Long-term Trend Comments: Long-term data are not available for this species. It is thought to always have been inherently rare in the east, but had declined significantly due to increasing popularity of caving in the decades before listing.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Range extent was calculated using the minimum convex polygon (MCP) at 96,780.244 sq km. Although the majority of sites are in discrete areas (see Whitaker and Hamilton 1998), there are still unknown sites that likely exist within the MCP.

Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and eastern Kentucky. Presently occurs in decreased numbers throughout much of the historic range. Largest colonies are in several caves in Pendleton County, West Virginia; some caves serve as both hibernation and maternity sites, others are primarily maternity caves Colonies occur also in Lee County and surrounding counties, Kentucky (the best known site being Stillhouse Cave); in Bath, Highland, Rockingham, Bland, and Tazewell counties, Virginia (Dalton 1987); and in Avery and Watauga counties, North Carolina (including Black Rock Cliffs Cave) See Matthews and Moseley (1990) and Handley (1991).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States KY, NC, TN, VA, WV

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
KY Bath (21011), Estill (21065), Jackson (21109), Lee (21129), Menifee (21165), Morgan (21175), Powell (21197), Rockcastle (21203), Rowan (21205), Wolfe (21237)
NC Avery (37011), Watauga (37189), Yancey (37199)
TN Carter (47019), Johnson (47091)
VA Bath (51017), Bland (51021), Highland (51091), Rockingham (51165), Scott (51169), Shenandoah (51171)*, Tazewell (51185)
WV Fayette (54019), Grant (54023), Hardy (54031), Pendleton (54071), Preston (54077)*, Randolph (54083), Tucker (54093)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 South Branch Potomac (02070001)+, Cacapon-Town (02070003)+, North Fork Shenandoah (02070006)+, Upper James (02080201)+
03 Upper Catawba (03050101)+
05 Tygart Valley (05020001)+, Cheat (05020004)+, Youghiogheny (05020006)+*, Middle New (05050002)+, Lower New (05050004)+, Licking (05100101)+, Upper Kentucky (05100204)+, Rockcastle (05130102)+
06 Watauga (06010103)+, Nolichucky (06010108)+, Upper Clinch (06010205)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A bat with large ears.
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from subspecies INGENS in being more sooty dorsally and averaging slightly smaller in all dimensions; also, the first upper incisor rarely has a trace of a secondary cusp, and the rostrum is less heavy and inflated (Handley 1959).
Reproduction Comments: Mating begins in late summer/early autumn, continues into winter. Ovulation and fertilization are delayed until late winter/early spring. Maternity colonies form as early as late winter (March) or as late as late spring (June), apparently depending on when the roost site reaches a suitably warm temperature. Gestation lasts 2-3.5 months. Litter of one is born in late spring/early summer. Young can fly at about 2.5-3 weeks, weaned by 6-8 weeks, leave cave to forage by the end of July or early August. Most individuals leave the nursery cave by mid- to late September. Females are sexually mature their first summer. Males may not be sexually active until their second year. Nearly all adult females breed every year. Females form nursery colonies; males roost separately ( solitary or in large bachelor groups) during this time.
Ecology Comments: Hibernates singly, or in small clusters; sometimes in large tight clusters of hundreds (Caire et al. 1989, Schmidly 1991, Handley 1991).

Pre-weaning post-natal mortality generally is low. Adult survivorship is relatively high.

Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Fairly sedentary; not known to migrate more than about 64 km between hibernation and maternity caves (Matthews and Moseley 1990).
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cliff, Forest - Hardwood, Old field
Subterranean Habitat(s): Subterrestrial
Habitat Comments: Caves typically in limestone karst regions dominated by mature hardwood forests of hickory, beech, maple, and hemlock (Matthews and Moseley 1990). Prefers cool, well-ventilated caves for hibernation (Matthews and Moseley 1990); roost sites are often near cave entrances or in places where there is considerable air movement (Handley 1991). Males and females hibernate together. In summer, males occur singly or in groups in caves (Handley 1991). In eastern Kentucky, feeding roosts were in cliffs adjacent to two maternity roosts and one bachelor roost (Burford and Lacki 1998). Individuals may move from one roost to another at any season.

Maternity colonies settle deep within caves, far from entrance (Matthews and Moseley 1990); these caves are warmer than those used for hibernation. In Kentucky, used limestone caves, except in one instance in which a sandstone rock shelter was used (Lacki et al. 1994).

In Kentucky, often detected in old fields and above cliffs (Burford and Lacki 1995).

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds principally on moths. Forages over fields and woods, with individuals routinely traveling 3-5 miles from roost cave to foraging area (End. Sp. Tech. Bull., Sept./Dec. 1991). In eastern West Virginia, Lepidoptera was the most important insect order in the diet, followed by Coleoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera; compared to availability, selectively consumed Lepidotera and avoided Coleoptera; forest insect comprised a substantial part of the diet (Sample and Whitmore 1993).
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Activity usually begins well into the night, late relative to other bats. After an initial feeding period, roosts and rests during the night, presumably before a later feeding bout. Commonly arouses in winter, changing position within a hibernaculum or moving to a nearby cave or mine.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: The most recognized threat to Virginia Big-eared Bats, is the disturbance of hibernating and maternity colonies. Declines associated with this threat have largely subsided because of cave gating and fencing, and slow, but steady increases are being recorded from the majority of Virginia Big-eared Bat hibernacula and maternity colony counts. Caves used as hibernacula and roosts are also under threat from limestone quarrying, and in some cases the quarrying is in close proximity to caves used for hibernation (FWS 2008).

Foraging habitat is under threat, primarily from development, but also grazing, logging, and succession. While development pressure of foraging habitat is considered to be light, it is likely to increase in the future (FWS 2008). Loss of outbuildings and bridges used as night roosts or bachelor day roosts is also a concern, and efforts should be made to avoid or mitigate this loss.

Permanent protection of the remaining caves needed to fulfill recovery goals should be a priority. Through conservation easements and landowner incentive programs, foraging zones managed in ways compatible with Virginia Big-eared Bats should be established near maternity sites.

Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 18Dec2018
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Eichelberger, C. (2018), Wilcove, D., S. Roble, and G. Hammerson (2011)
Management Information Edition Date: 18Dec2018
Management Information Edition Author: C. Eichelberger
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 23Dec1994
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Bagley, F. M. 1984. Recovery plan for the Ozark big-eared bat and the Virginia big-eared bat. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 119 pp.

  • Bagley, R. and J. Jacobs. 1985. Census techniques for endangered big-eared bats proving successful. Endangered Species Tech. Bull. 10(3):5-7.

  • Barbour, R. W., and W. H. Davis. 1969. Bats of America. The University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, Kentucky. 286 pp.

  • Blehert D. S, A. C. Hicks, M. J. Behr, C. U. Meteyer, B. M. Berlowski-Zier, E. L. Buckles, J. T. H. Coleman, S. R. Darling, A. Gargas, R. Niver, J. C. Okoniewski, R. J. Rudd, and W. B. Stone.. 2009. Bat white-nose syndrome: An emerging fungal pathogen? Science 323:227

  • Burford, L. S., and M. J. Lacki. 1995. Habitat use by Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus in the Daniel Boone National Forest. American Midland Naturalist 134:340-345.

  • Burford, L. S., and M. J. Lacki. 1998. Moths consumed by Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus in eastern Kentucky. American Midland Naturalist 139:141-146.

  • Caire, W., J. D. Tyler, B. P. Glass, and M. A. Mares. 1989. Mammals of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. Oklahoma. 567 pp.

  • Clark, Mary K. and David S. Lee. 1987. Big-eared bat, PLECO TUS TOWNSENDII, in western North Carolina. Brimleyana. No. 1 3:137-140.

  • Dalton, V. M. 1987. Distribution, abundance, and status of bats hibernating in caves in Virginia. Virginia J. Science 38:369-379.

  • Dalton, V.M. 1987. Distribution, abundance, and status of bats hibernating in caves in Virginia. Virginia Journal of Science 38(4): 369-379.

  • Dalton, Virginia M. 1987. Distribution, Abundance, and Status of Bats Hibernating in Caves in Virginia. Virginia Journal of Science 38(4): 369-379.

  • Danford, D. S., L. Shriver, and H. A. Barton. 2018. Innate chemical resistance of Virginia Big-eared Bats (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) to White-Nose Syndrome. Honors Research Projects. 755.

  • Hall, E. R. 1981a. The Mammals of North America, second edition. Vols. I & II. John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York. 1181 pp.

  • Handley, C. O., Jr. 1959. A revision of American bats of the genera Euderma and Plecotus. Proceedings U.S. National Museum 110:95-246.

  • Handley, C. O., Jr. 1991. Mammals. Pages 539-616 in K. Terwilliger, coordinator. Virginia's endangered species: proceedings of a symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia.

  • Harvey, Michael J., J. Scott Altenbach and Troy L. Best, 1999. Bats of the United States. Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 64 pp.

  • Kunz, T.H. and R.A. Martin. 1982. Plecotus townsendii. American Society Mamm., Mammalian Species No. 175. 6 pp.

  • Lacki, M. J., M. D. Adam, and L. G. Shoemaker. 1994. Observations on seasonal cycle, population patterns and roost selection in summer colonies of Plecotus townsendii virginianus in Kentucky. American Midland Naturalist 131:34-42.

  • Linzey, D. W. 1998. The mammals of Virginia. McDonald and Woodward, Blacksburg, VA. 459 pp.

  • Matthews, J.R. and C.J. Moseley (eds.). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Mussels, Crustaceans, Snails, Insects, and Arachnids. xiii + pp. 561-1180. Beacham Publications, Inc., Washington, D.C.

  • Pearson, O.P., M.R. Koford and A.K. Pearson. 1952. Reproduction of the lump-nosed bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) in California. J. Mamm. 33:273-320.

  • Pupek, D. 1997. Big-eared bat bounces back. Endangered Species Bulletin 22(3):12-13.

  • Sample, B. E., and R. C. Whitmore. 1993. Food habits of the endangered Virginia big-eared bat in West Virginia. J. Mammalogy 74:428-435.

  • Schmidly, D. J. 1991. The bats of Texas. Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas. 188 pp.

  • Stihler, C. 2017. Hellhole winter bat survey, Pendleton County, WV (unpublished survey report). WV Division of Natural Resources ? Wildlife Diversity Unit, Elkins WV. 25 pp.

  • Turner, G., D. Reeder, and J. Coleman. 2011. A five-year assessment of mortality and geographic spread of white-nose syndrome in North American bats and a look to the future. Bat Research News 52:13-27.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1990. Endangered and threatened species recovery program: report to Congress. 406 pp.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2008b. Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) 5-year review: summary and evaluation. Report prepared by West Virginia Field Office. 21 pp.

  • Webster, W. D., J. F. Parnell and W. C. Biggs Jr. 1985. Mammals of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

  • White, D. H., and J. T. Seginak. 1987. Cave gate designs for use in protecting endangered bats. Wildlife Society Bull. 15:445-449.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.

  • Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 750 pp.

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