Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Threats include disturbance of bat colonies from unauthorized entry into caves by recreationists and/or bat collectors, and continued susceptibility to extinction either from a single event (such as widespread pesticide spraying) or from the cumulative impacts of limestone mining and loss of foraging habitat.
Known population levels have increased from 1,300 to more than 13,000 (winter counts) since the bat's listing in 1979. Steady increases in numbers over the last few years for both summer and winter colonies have been observed at most West Virginia caves. Discovery of additional hibernacula and maternity colonies has also contributed to higher known population levels. A new summer colony numbering approximately 1,350 bats, making it the largest known for the species, was discovered in 1992. Several caves have been gated to prevent human disturbance while the caves are occupied by bats. A brochure, pamphlets, and t-shirts featuring eastern bat species, including the Virginia big-eared bat, have been distributed.
Most of the formal section 7 consultations that have been conducted for the Virginia big-eared bat involved Forest Service activities in the Monongahela National Forest. Standards and guidelines to protect the bat, established by the Forest Service and approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service, apply to any project that may affect a bat cave or foraging habitat. One section 7 consultation was conducted with the West Virginia Division of Water Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Germany Valley Limestone Company regarding plans to quarry limestone in the vicinity of Hellhole Cave. It was resolved that the company would lessen its blasting magnitudes and direct future mining away from the cave.
Necessary recovery actions include gaining long-term management authority, through conservation easements or fee acquisition, for unprotected caves containing significant summer and winter colonies; further searches for summer colonies to determine year-round distribution; delineation and adequate protection of foraging habitat; continued monitoring and protection of all known big-eared bat caves; and revision of the Virginia big-eared bat recovery plan.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources received $11,500 in both FY 1991 and FY 1992 to conduct winter and summer colony counts, construct and maintain gates and fences, and conduct a foraging study to determine the bat's surface habitat requirements.
Forest Service: The Forest Service has played a role in habitat protection and monitoring activities, and has provided substantial resources to install and maintain gates at several bat caves in the Monongahela National Forest.
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources: This State agency has conducted annual bat surveys, coordinated a foraging study, and maintained contacts with private landowners (including the owner of the cave supporting the largest known hibernaculum) and caving groups, which enabled discovery of the largest known maternity colony.
National Speleological Society: The Society has brought a number of bat caves to the attention of public agencies, including the most recent discovery of the largest known maternity colony. It also educates cavers to encourage protection of bat habitat.
Plan approved 5/8/84.