The Virginia big-eared bat (Plecotus townsendii) is an endangered bat that only lives in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Virginia big-eared bats prefer caves in karst regions (areas underlain with limestone bedrock and many caves and sinkholes) dominated by oak/hickory or beech/maple/hemlock forest. These bats usually hibernate in tight clusters near entrances of caves that are well-ventilated and where temperatures range from 32 to 54 degrees F. In summer, maternity colonies are found in the relatively warm parts of caves.
Human disturbance is probably the biggest factor contributing to the decline of these bats. Disturbance during hibernation causes bats to lose stored fat reserves, and repeated disturbance can cause the bats to die before spring (when insect prey are again available). If female bats are disturbed during the maternity season, they may drop their young to their deaths or the whole colony may abandon a roost for a less suitable location.
SAHC expanded the bat’s habitat in the Highlands of Roan with the recent purchase of the 136-acre Views at Cranberry tract, located within one half mile of the Cranberry Iron Mines tract on which the NC Wildlife Resources Commission holds a 200-acre conservation easement in order to protect this endangered creature.