Little work has focused on species presence, distributions, and habitat use of bats in the Great Plains of North America. In particular, no previous study has attempted to determine if bats are utilizing hibernacula during the winter months in North Dakota. The current lack of information regarding bat species presence during the winter months in North Dakota can have great conservation implications. Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungal pathogen responsible for white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats across the United States and Canada, has led to great concern for wildlife managers. For many of the areas where WNS is present, information about the presence and location of hibernacula are known, allowing for close monitoring of the spread of the disease. However, some locations within the predicted path of WNS still lack information as to bat species presence during the winter months. Due to mortality rates sometimes reaching upwards of 100% as a result of WNS infection, filling in these information gaps is critical for conservation research. The purpose of this study was to determine if the badlands region of North Dakota supports over-wintering bat communities, document both utilized and potential hibernacula, and develop a Geographic Information Systems model in the program MaxEnt to be used for future studies and wildlife managers. Six species were positively identified in the badlands region of North Dakota during the pre-hibernation and winter hibernation periods: Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus), Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus), Long-eared Myotis (Myotis evotis), Townsend's Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii), and Western Small-footed Myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum). Habitat suitability modeling was employed to model potential hibernacula in the study area. Knowledge of these potential hibernacula could be of great importance to wildlife managers, and results from this study may be used by regional wildlife managers to develop strategies for curtailing the spread of this disease into North Dakota.
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Vol. 98 • No. 1