Activity of southeastern bats along sandstone cliffs used for rock climbing
Bats in the eastern United States are facing numerous threats and many species are in decline. Although several species of bats commonly roost in cliffs, researchers know little about use of cliffs for foraging and roosting. Because rock climbing is a rapidly growing sport and may cause disturbance to bats, our objectives were to examine use of cliff habitats by bats and to assess the effects of climbing on their activity. We used radiotelemetry to track small-footed bats Myotis leibii to day roosts, and Anabat SD2 detectors to compare bat activity between climbed and unclimbed areas of regularly climbed cliff faces, and between climbed and unclimbed cliffs. We tracked four adult male small- footed bats to nine day roosts, all of which were in various types of crevices including five cliff-face roosts (three on climbed and two on unclimbed faces). Bat activity was high along climbed cliffs and did not differ between climbed and unclimbed areas of climbed cliffs. In contrast, overall bat activity was significantly higher along climbed cliffs than unclimbed cliffs; species richness did not differ between climbed and unclimbed cliffs or areas. Lower activity along unclimbed cliffs may have been related to lower cliff heights and more clutter along these cliff faces. Due to limited access to unclimbed cliffs of comparable size to climbed cliffs, we could not thoroughly test the effects of climbing on bat foraging and roosting activity. However, the high overall use of climbed and unclimbed cliff faces for foraging and commuting that we observed suggests that cliffs may be important habitat for a number of bat species. Additional research on bats’ use of cliff faces will improve our understanding of the factors that affect their use of this habitat including the impacts of climbing
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