Indiana bats, northern long-eared bats, and prescribed fire in the Appalachians: challenges and considerations.This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalist) is an endangered species and the northern long-eared bat (M. septentrionalis) has been proposed for listing as endangered. Both species are found throughout the Appalachians, and they commonly inhabit fire-dependent ecosystems such as pine and pine-oak forests. Due to their legal status, prescribed burns in areas where these species occur must be conducted to avoid harming or harassing the animals, and managers must consider the effects of their prescribed burning programs on these species. We review what is known about the potential positive and negative impacts of prescribed fire on Indiana and northern long-eared bats throughout their life cycles. Prescribed fire may affect Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats by causing short-term disturbance while they are in their roosts, and this may impact them more during critical points of their life cycle such as post-hibernation and the early pup-rearing phase. Prescribed fires may destroy roosts, although they may also create some. However, several studies suggest that both Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats select areas that have been burned for both roosting and foraging, indicating that prescribed fire may be beneficial for both species. Further, prescribed fire may be critical for the long-term restoration of their preferred habitats. Thus, managers and policymakers must balance the short-term impacts with the long-term benefits of prescribed fire within the range of these species.