Fire is an important natural disturbance recently reintroduced into many North American ecosystems, spurring questions regarding how fire affects forest wildlife. Bats are an ecologically significant group within North American forests, and the diversity of this group includes species that may benefit or suffer negative impacts from habitat changes initiated by prescribed fires. To determine how fire affects a rare bat species that specializes on gleaning moths from forest vegetation, we studied home ranges and nocturnal habitat selection in Rafinesque's big-eared bats (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) in an upland forest ecosystem where small-scale, low-to-moderate intensity prescribed burning occurs in spring. We found home ranges of big-eared bats to be notably small (x = 169 ha; n = 41), not different in size among sexes and reproductive classes, and located nonrandomly on the landscape. Home ranges of females were located farthest from riparian areas, whereas home ranges of males were farthest from burned forests. Home ranges of lactating and postlactating females were closer to burned forests than expected, but no group of females had home ranges located closer to or farther from burned forests relative to unburned forests. All groups used habitats randomly within home ranges. Moth abundance and diversity (number of families) were lowest in riparian habitats, indicating that habitat selection by female bats at the landscape, but not home range, scale was influenced by prey availability. Results indicate that low-to-moderate intensity prescribed fires weakly affected the foraging patterns of Rafinesque's big-eared bats in upland forest ecosystems, provided burned forests exist in a matrix of unburned or less-frequently burned forest stands that support a diverse and abundant lepidopteran prey base.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Journal of Mammalogy|
|State||Published - Apr 1 2019|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank R. Toomey and S. Thomas of the National Park Service for advice and logistical support while working at Mammoth Cave National Park. We thank J. Grider, G. Langlois, C. Farr, D. Frasier, and H. Comstock for assistance in the field. Financial support was provided by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment at the University of Kentucky. This research is connected with a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station (KAES no. 18-09-41) and is published with the approval of the Director.
© 2019 American Society of Mammalogists.
- Corynorhinus rafinesquii
- Disturbance ecology
- Fire ecology
- Habitat selection
- Home range
- Prescribed burning
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Nature and Landscape Conservation