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Publication Date

January 2017


Understanding the winter behavior of bats in temperate North America can provide insight into how bats react to perturbations caused by natural disturbances such as weather, human-induced disturbances, or the introduction of disease. This study measured the activity patterns of bats outside of their hibernaculum and asked how this winter activity varied by time, temperature, bat species, body condition, and WNS status. Over the course of three winters (2011–2013), we collected acoustic data and captured bats outside of five hibernacula in Tennessee, United States. During this time, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of white-nose syndrome, became established in hibernacula throughout the region, allowing us to track disease-related changes in the winter behavior of ten bat species. We determined that bats in the southeastern United States were active during winter regardless of disease. We recorded activity outside of hibernacula at temperatures as low as −13°C. Although bat activity was best determined by a combination of variables, the strongest factor was mean daily temperature (R2 = .2879, F1,1450 = 586.2, p < .0001). Bats that left the hibernacula earlier in evening had lower body condition than those that left 2–4 hr after sunset (F7,932 = 7.225, p < .0001, Tukey HSD, p < .05). The number of daytime emergences from hibernacula, as determined via acoustic detection, increased the longer a site was P. destructans positive (F3,17 808 = 124.48, p < .0001, Tukey HSD, p < .05). Through the use of passive acoustic monitoring and monthly captures, we determined that winter activity was driven by both ambient temperature and the presence of P. destructans.


White-nose syndrome, Bats, Animal behavior

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