We used mark–recapture estimation techniques and radiography to test hypotheses about 3 important aspects of recruitment in big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) in Fort Collins, Colorado: adult breeding probabilities, litter size, and 1st-year survival of young. We marked 2,968 females with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags at multiple sites during 2001–2005 and based our assessments on direct recaptures (breeding probabilities) and passive detection with automated PIT tag readers (1st-year survival). We interpreted our data in relation to hypotheses regarding demographic influences of bat age, roost, and effects of years with unusual environmental conditions: extreme drought (2002) and arrival of a West Nile virus epizootic (2003). Conditional breeding probabilities at 6 roosts sampled in 2002–2005 were estimated as 0.64 (95% confidence interval [95% CI] = 0.53–0.73) in 1-year-old females, but were consistently high (95% CI = 0.94–0.96) and did not vary by roost, year, or prior year breeding status in older adults. Mean litter size was 1.11 (95% CI = 1.05–1.17), based on examination of 112 pregnant females by radiography. Litter size was not higher in older or larger females and was similar to results of other studies in western North America despite wide variation in latitude. First-year survival was estimated as 0.67 (95% CI = 0.61–0.73) for weaned females at 5 maternity roosts over 5 consecutive years, was lower than adult survival (0.79; 95% CI = 0.77–0.81), and varied by roost. Based on model selection criteria, strong evidence exists for complex roost and year effects on 1st-year survival. First-year survival was lowest in bats born during the drought year. Juvenile females that did not return to roosts as 1-year-olds had lower body condition indices in late summer of their natal year than those known to survive.
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Vol. 91 • No. 2