Seasonal roost selection and activity of a remnant population of northern myotis in Pennsylvania

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The decline in northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) populations due to the disease white-nose syndrome (WNS) has led to the species receiving federal protection in the United States and Canada, requiring conservation of critical habitats. However, considerably more is known about summer habitat preferences of northern myotis compared to late summer through winter. Our goal was to describe the seasonal presence and habitat use of a remnant colony of northern myotis in central Pennsylvania. We radio-tagged 31 northern myotis and established 6 acoustic monitoring stations to document activity from 2017-2021. We found that roost trees used during the maternity season by reproductive females were occupied by bats during both summer (21 June-14 August) and autumn (15 August-31 October), indicating similar habitat use patterns between seasons. During this time, both males and females preferred to roost in dead and declining trees. No other variable influenced male use, but females also preferred trees located close to water and in forest stands with higher basal area than randomly located trees. Northern myotis with active transmitters never left the study area and were tracked to roosts until early November. During October and November, a female and male were tracked to an underground network of air-filled voids (the Milieu Souterrain Superficiel) we presume to be a hibernaculum. Northern myotis calls were recorded outside this roost between March and October, and bats were observed emerging from this roost during spring and autumn but not summer. Acoustic activity at this site exhibited a seasonal pattern that differed from acoustic activity near roost trees and foraging areas, with a peak of activity during late summer when northern myotis are known to swarm. These data show that northern myotis maternity roosts are used extensively outside of summer and may be vulnerable to forestry practices that occur even outside of the puprearing season. These data also support the growing evidence that some northern myotis hibernate outside of caves and mines.