Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Animal Science

First Advisor

Dr. Michael J. Lacki

Abstract

Bat populations in the eastern United States are currently declining at unprecedented rates as a result of habitat loss, commercial wind energy development, and white-nose syndrome. Effective conservation of these declining populations requires knowledge of several aspects of summer and winter ecology, including daytime habitat use (day-roost selection and social behaviors), nocturnal habitat use (foraging habitat selection, prey selection, and prey abundance), and winter hibernation (torpor) patterns. This dissertation addresses these questions for Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii), a species of conservation concern in the southeastern United States. Kentucky represents the northern edge of the range of Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, and summer and winter behaviors in Kentucky are likely to differ from what has been observed in southern portion of the range, where available habitats and climate are different. My research occurred in two study areas in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky, and the Ballard Wildlife Management areas in western Kentucky. This dissertation includes all of the work done in western Kentucky, where I radio-tagged 48 adult big-eared bats and documented daytime and nighttime habitat use. Also included is a portion of the work done in central Kentucky, focusing on hibernation patterns of 14 adult big-eared bats radio-tagged during the winter at Mammoth Cave. Data disseminated in this dissertation provide insights into the summer and winter ecology of Rafinesque’s big-eared bat in Kentucky, and can be used to manage populations threatened by habitat loss and white-nose syndrome.

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