Kentucky Bat Working Group

Virginia Big-eared Bat
(Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus)

Status: Endangered

Description: The Virginia big-eared bat is a medium-sized bat, about 3.5 - 4 inches long. Characteristic features are the large ears (more than one inch long) and the presence of two large lumps (glands) on the muzzle. Virginia big-eared bats can be distinguished from Rafinesque's big-eared bats, the only similar species in Kentucky, by fur color and toe hairs. Virginia big-eared bats are pale to dark brown on the back and light brown underneath. In contrast, Rafinesque's big-eared bats are gray-brown on the back with whitish underparts. Also, Rafinesque's big-eared bats have hairs on their feet that extend past the toes, while Virginia big-eared bats have short toe hairs.

Range: Virginia big-eared bats occur in isolated populations in eastern Kentucky, eastern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and northwestern North Carolina.

Distribution in Kentucky: 

Habitat: 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.

Life history: This nonmigratory bat resides in caves year round. Mating occurs in fall and winter, and females store sperm over winter. Ovulation and fertilization take place in spring shortly after females arouse from hibernation. In summer, females congregate to form what are known as maternity colonies where they bear their young. It is not known where most males spend the summer. Each female gives birth to a single pup in June. Young can generally fly within three weeks. Moths are the most important prey of Virginia big-eared bats.

Causes of decline: 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.

For additional information about Virginia big-eared bats:

Rare And Endangered Virginia Big-eared Bat

Virginia big-eared bat

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