Bats in South Carolina - Northern Long-eared Bat
Northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) were historically present the mountain region of three counties in northwestern South Carolina: Oconee, Pickens and Greenville. The earliest summer record dates back to 1931 from Rocky Bottom in Pickens County. Mist net and harp trap sampling records from the late 1980’s through the 1990's confirmed the presence of Northern long-eared bats in the summer and fall throughout the mountains of South Carolina. The habitat at capture sites varied and included mature mixed hardwood forest, mature Virginia pine stands, hemlock forest, and mixed pine-hardwood less than 15 years old. One lactating female roosted under exfoliating bark of a dead loblolly pine on Oconee State Park; the female had been captured nearby on the Sumter National Forest on July 2, 1998. The species was the most frequently captured Myotis species in the mountains. Winter Northern long-eared bat records were infrequent. When present in hibernacula, their numbers range from 24 (1995 survey of a Pickens County hibernaculum) to single records from tunnels in Oconee County.
Sadly, very few Northern long-eared bats have been found in the mountains of SC since White-nose Syndrome (WNS) was confirmed in the state. WNS has been a substantial threat to Northern long-eared bats, as it is linked to mortality of up to 100% in some populations. Mortality has occurred across portions of its range and threatens to impact significant portions in the near future. According to Frick et al. (2015), there has been a loss of 69% of the Northern long-eared bat’s former hibernacula.
However, in 2016, Northern long-eared bats were first discovered on the SC coast in fall at Palmetto Bluff Conservancy in Beaufort County with one adult male and one juvenile female. At Francis Marion National Forest in 2017, they were found breeding in Charleston and Berkeley counties. By 2018, a total of 20 individuals had been captured at Francis Marion National Forest and included all sex and age classes except pregnant females. At Palmetto Bluff Conservancy in 2018, Clemson graduate student Kyle Shute captured one adult male. In 2019, he recaptured the same male along with two additional adult males, providing an unprecedented opportunity to collect multiyear coastal summer roost information with the same individual.
In 2019, SCDNR staff captured the First pregnant Northern long-eared bats found along South Carolina Coast. We found this population to be outside the June 1 – July 31 pup season outlined in the current 4(d) rule, with heavily pregnant bats captured at the end of April. We will continue to monitor this population at Santee Coastal Reserve and Wildlife Management Area to determine roost site characteristics and maternity roost locations, as well as search for other populations along the upper and lower coastal plains to better delineate the range of this federally threatened species in the state. We also continue to monitor bat hibernacula in the Upstate, though the last Northern long-eared bat seen by SCDNR during hibernacula surveys was an individual covered in white fungus in 2015.
Additional Information for Northern Long-eared Bats in SC
- 2018-2019 SCDNR General Report: Northern Long-eared Bats at Santee Coastal Reserve
- White TM, Walea JE, Robinson J. 2018. New record of northern long-eared bats in coastal South Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 17:N1–N5.