Kentucky Bat Working Group

Small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii)

Federal Status: Species of Management Concern

Kentucky Status: Threatened

Description: This is one of Kentuckyís two smallest bats and the smallest member of the genus Myotis, barely reaching 3 inches (76 mm) in length and having a wingspan of less than 9 inches (229 mm).  As its name implies, in addition to being small, this bat has especially small feet relative to its body size.  The species has medium brown fur on the upperparts, and is slightly lighter and buffier on the belly.  The face and ears are typically dark brown or blackish, giving a unique Ďblack-maskedí look.  The calcar has an obvious keel.

Range: Locally distributed in the eastern United States and southern Canada from southern Maine and southern Ontario, southwestward through the Appalachian Mountains and westward to southern Illinois and Missouri, southeastern Oklahoma, central Arkansas and central Tennessee.

Distribution in Kentucky: 

Kentucky Occurrence Summary: The species occurs very locally across the eastern two-thirds of Kentucky, but most frequently in the western Cumberland Plateau and the Cumberland Mountains.  It has been documented year round, but most frequently during the winter. This batís summer status in Kentucky is unclear, but evidence of reproduction has been observed in about a half-dozen localities in the eastern part of the state.

Habitat and Life History: Small-footed myotis use a variety of roost sites throughout the year.  In winter, most are found in caves but many may occur in rock shelters and fissures in cliffs, and there are several records of them using old mines and quarries.  They are usually found singly, wedged back into a recessed area in the rock.  Despite their small size, these bats seem to prefer cold sites -- just above freezing -- as hibernation sites.  During migration and summer, little is known of the speciesí roosting habits, although there are reports of the species using abandoned buildings, bridges and rock shelters along clifflines; they have even found beneath rocks.  During the summer small-footed myotis roost both singly and in small groups of up to about 20 individuals.  Little is known of this batís foraging behavior, but the species presumably forages primarily in the vicinity of forest and forest edge.

Conservation: So little is known about the habits of the small-footed myotis that researchers arenít really sure if they have declined in abundance over time.  They are found in such small numbers in most areas, that local impacts to hibernacula and summer roost sites do not have as significant an impact on their overall population.  This bat has been considered by some biologists to be associated with extensive areas of mountainous forest.  Thus, it may be that the conversion of forested habitats to farmland and settlements has decreased the amount of preferred habitat in some areas, but the species has adapted to bridges and uses a host of other roosting sites as well.

Related links:

Small-footed myotis - Pennsylvania

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