Adult male big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) sometimes occur within maternity roosts. We investigated male attendance at big brown bat maternity roosts in a Colorado study area that shows a pattern of sexual segregation by elevation. We tested multiple predictions of three nonmutually exclusive hypotheses to explain male attendance patterns: 1) sex-specific differences in energetic strategies of males and females are maintained at the lower elevation; 2) natal philopatry of inexperienced young males accounts for most attendants; 3) males gain a reproductive advantage for late summer mating at maternity roosts. We tested predictions based on captures of bats at emergence, automated monitoring of annual, seasonal, and daily roost attendance by known-age bats tagged with passive integrated transponders, and anatomical evidence for mating. Findings were most consistent with the first two hypotheses. Adult males accounted for just 3.1% of 8,192 captures of bats at 285 evening emergences from 46 roosts during 2001–2005. Daily attendance rates of males during each active season (0.10 detections/day at age 1 year and 0.20 detections/day at ≥ 2 years old) were lower than in females (0.34 at age 1 year and 0.45 at ≥ 2 years old). Only 92 of 299 males tagged as volant juveniles were detected as adults at five maternity roosts monitored 2002–2005, far fewer than female returns in every age category. We detected known-age adult males almost exclusively at their natal roosts and most males that returned (91 of 92) in years after tagging as juveniles were first detected as 1-year-olds; 20 of 21 individuals that returned at 2–4 years of age were previously detected as 1-year-olds. One-year-old males were re-encountered at annual rates 5–16 times higher than 2- to 4-year-old males, and 1-year-old males and females had lower daily attendance rates than older bats. The male reproductive advantage hypothesis was not well supported. None of 80 females examined in late summer had evidence of insemination, and not all males showed distended scrota. Daily attendance rates of tagged adult males (n = 155) and females (n = 788) were lowest during late summer, suggesting that little reproductive advantage was accrued by males utilizing maternity roosts. Attendance of male big brown bats at maternity roosts at our study area is consistent with the sex-specific energetic strategies and natal philopatry hypotheses, and mating probably occurs at higher elevation autumn roosts and hibernacula.
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Vol. 102 • No. 2