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Bats of Massachusetts

Conservation of Bats in Massachusetts

Across North America, DDT and other pesticides had a huge effect on bats from the 1940s through the 1960s. Since the ban of DDT in 1972, the population of bats has been slowly recovering. The last hibernating colony of Indiana Bats in Massachusetts was in a mine in the town of Chester in 1939. As their population slowly increased in New York and they returned to Vermont, there was hope that this species would soon be re-discovered in Massachusetts, as well.

A Little Brown Bat (Endangered) in a cave.
A Little Brown Bat (Endangered) in a cave. Photo by Bill Byrne, MassWildlife

However, these hopes diminished when White-nose Syndrome (WNS) was discovered in a New York cave in 2006. The fungus that causes WNS spread rapidly across much of the United States, and the numbers of bat species that hibernate in caves and mines crashed. As a result of WNS, the Indiana Bat did not return to Massachusetts, and all four bat species that spend winters in caves or mines were listed as Endangered in Massachusetts in 2012. This includes the Little Brown Bat, Northern Long-eared Bat, Eastern Small-footed Bat, and Tricolored Bat. The Little Brown Bat was once the most abundant bat species in Massachusetts, but its population declined by more than 99% after the onset of WNS. 

All five of the most important bat hibernacula are now closed to public access to protect the few surviving bats from disturbance. MassWildlife acquired two of the mines and installed gates to protect the bats. These gates are specially designed to allow the bats to freely fly through while keeping people out. Research is underway to better understand the fungus that causes WNS, but currently there is no way to prevent or effectively treat it.

Massachusetts Bat Species

There are 9 species of bats that live in Massachusetts, 5 of which are listed under MESA as Endangered.  

List updated June 2017
Common Name Scientific Name Status Range Summer Habitat Winter Habitat
Big brown bat Eptesicus fuscus Common statewide buildings, trees buildings, caves, mines
Little brown bat Myotis lucifugus MA: E statewide buildings caves, mines
Northern long-eared bat Myotis septentrionalis

MA: E Fed: E

statewide trees, building exteriors (rarely inside buildings) caves, mines
Indiana bat Myotis sodalis

MA: E Fed: E

Berkshire & Hampden counties (last record 1939) caves, mines, hollow trees, under tree bark caves, mines
Eastern small-footed bat Myotis leibii MA: E Berkshire & Hampden counties under tree bark; in rock talus & deep fissures caves, mines
Tricolored bat Perimyotis subflavus MA: E statewide trees (rarely in buildings) caves, mines, rock crevices
Silver-haired bat Lasionycteris noctivagans Common probably statewide trees, rock crevices buildings, trees (migratory)
Eastern red bat Lasiurus borealis Common statewide tree foliage migratory
Hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus Common statewide tree foliage migratory


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