Endangered bat discovered on Forever Wild land in Coastal Alabama — why it matters

Northern Long-Eared Bat - Photo By Dylan Shaw
Northern long-eared bat. (Dylan Shaw)

Just in time for Halloween, biologists announced the discovery of a breeding population of endangered northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) in coastal Alabama.

Rare bats found on Forever Wild land

The rare bats were found during the Alabama Bat Working Group’s annual Bat Blitz, an event held in a different location of the state each year to inventory local bat populations. 

On the last day of this year’s event, one male and two pregnant female northern long-eared bats were captured and released on a Forever Wild Land Trust tract within the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Baldwin County. 

Prior to the 2023 Bat Blitz, the species had not been documented in southwest Alabama.

“We focused our efforts in coastal Alabama after the discovery of northern long-eared bats in coastal North Carolina and South Carolina. This discovery is significant as there are no caves in these locations and the bats apparently do not hibernate. Rather, they are active year-round and therefore not exposed to white-nose syndrome (WNS).”  

Nick Sharp, WFF Bat Biologist for Alabama

Why discovering Northern long-eared bats matter

Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of Conservation (Governor Kay Ivey Photos)

According to an Alabama Department of Conservation news release, the Northern long-eared bats were once one of the most common bats in eastern North America. Sadly, the species has been decimated by WNS, a deadly fungal disease that affects hibernating bats. WNS has caused declines of 97 to 100 percent in affected northern long-eared bat populations. Due to extreme population declines, the northern long-eared bat was federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2022.

“The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been intentional about acquiring land along the Perdido River corridor to add to the land that currently encompasses the Perdido WMA. The discovery of this endangered species in the area we are working to protect is further evidence of the importance of this land in eastern Baldwin County.”

Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner and Chairman of the Forever Wild Land Trust Board of Trustees

In June 2023, a second effort was made to catch additional northern long-eared bats at the Perdido River WMA with the goal of locating a maternity colony. This attempt resulted in the capture of another male and a lactating female, indicating the female had given birth in the area. 

Finding a breeding population greatly enhances the ability of the biologists to recover the species.

Now that’s a Halloween story that has a happy ending.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington
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