Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Wildlife and Fisheries Biology
High bat mortality from white-nose syndrome (WNS) has increased the need to manage hibernation sites. Management decisions should be based on science, and when sites are accessible to the public, also need to consider human dimensions. We used Stumphouse Tunnel, a recreation site and tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) hibernaculum in northwestern South Carolina, as a case study to understand potential conflicts between conservation and recreation. The population declined by 90% after the arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS), followed by stabilization and slight increases. Because the increase was associated with more bats roosting in the publicly accessible section, a potential conflict between bat conservation and recreational use exists. Our objectives were to understand microsite selection of hibernating tricolored bats throughout hibernation, particularly their use of the publicly accessible section, and understand knowledge of and attitudes toward bats and their management at Stumphouse Tunnel
We conducted monthly censuses of bats in Stumphouse Tunnel over two hibernation seasons to determine whether bats’ use of the front tunnel section varied across months and how this related to roost microclimate. We found that while most bats roosted in the back of the tunnel, about 25% used the front section throughout hibernation, which was associated with colder roosting temperatures. Bats in the front section used higher roosting sites, which were slightly warmer and may provide protection from human disturbance and predation.
To understand the public’s knowledge and attitudes toward bats and support for bat management, we conducted surveys of visitors, local homeowners, and recreation groups. Respondents were somewhat knowledgeable about bats (67% correct), had positive attitudes toward them, and were slightly supportive of management options (4.8; 7-point scale). Awareness of WNS was low (34%) but associated with positive attitudes and greater management support. Thus, outreach and education about threats to bats could improve attitudes and support for bat management.
We found that potential conflict between bat conservation and recreational use occurred throughout hibernation. To better protect bats at the site, managers could use active and passive methods to inform visitors about bats and WNS, require visitors keep their voices down, and ban dogs in the tunnel.
Brown, Rebecca, "Hibernating Tricolored Bats at a Southeastern Recreation Site: Microsite Use and Public Perceptions" (2023). All Theses. 4005.