Managing endangered animals

Many cave entrances in the park are gated. Horizontal bars allow bats to pass through, but keep the cave and visitors safe.

Many cave entrances in the park are gated. Horizontal bars allow bats to pass.

NPS photo.

We’re lucky that the Endangered Indiana Bat calls the Great Smoky Mountains home. In fact, the Park has the largest colony of winter hibernating Indiana Bats (Myotis sodalis) in Tennessee. The Indiana Bat’s summer habitat includes forests of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding National Forests. Specifically, bats look for trees with dead and dying trees with loose bark and lots of solar exposure. They take advantage of habitat that’s available on the landscape, such as pine trees that have succumbed to the southern pine beetle. Outside these protected areas, development such as new building, land clearing, logging, and mountain-top removal destroy the bat’s habitat.

In 2008-2009, wildlife managers received grants from the Tallassee Fund, the National Park Service Fire Management Program Center in Boise, and the National Park Foundation to study roost (bat “bedroom”) ecology of the Indiana Bat in the Park, and in the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests that surround it. An additional grant from the Joint Fire Science Program extends this research for 3 years. The studies are especially concerned about protecting critical summer roost habitat because bat populations are slow to recover from disturbances. While adult bats rely on some disturbances, such as fires during plant growing seasons, uncontrolled burns can kill baby bats. Understanding habitat needs of bats at all life stages is critical for developing effective forest management practices such as prescribed fire. All of these studies come at a time when bat populations are being devastated by White-nose syndrome, so understanding habitat use to protect it is a priority. Read more about cave closures at Great Smoky Mountains National Park to protect the Indiana bat.

Wildlife managers are also responsible for the endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus) and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis), as well as their habitat. The Smokies are also home to many Species of Concern. Check the complete list of threatened and endangered species then use the back arrow to return to this page.


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