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Habitat associations of Rafinesque’s big-eared bats (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) and their lepidopteran prey in bottomland hardwood forests

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Effective conservation of forest bats requires knowledge of daytime and nocturnal habitat use. Although many bat species use different habitats during the daytime and nighttime hours, these data are rarely collected simultaneously. We radio-tagged 48 adult Rafinesque’s big-eared bats (Corynorhinus rafinesquii (Lesson, 1827)) in a bottomland hardwood forest in Kentucky from 2009 to 2011. We tracked bats to 64 day roosts over 549 bat-days and found bats roosted almost exclusively in trees located in forested wetlands (n = 59; 92%), and that reproductive females established their home ranges closest to these habitats (P < 0.0001). Although few (n = 4; 6%) roosts were located in deciduous forests on drier soils, these forests were important foraging habitats for pregnant females, which foraged closest to these habitats within their home ranges (P = 0.04). Abundance of Lepidoptera differed among habitats (P = 0.03), with higher abundance in deciduous forests and along forest–field edges. Deciduous forests were the only habitat preferentially selected by any lepidopteran family (Notodontidae), and the only habitat not avoided by any family. These data confirm the importance of forested wetlands to the ecology of Rafinesque’s big-eared bat and demonstrate the benefit of proximally located deciduous forests that provide habitat for their moth prey.
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