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Northern Long-eared Bat

Scientific Name: Myotis septentrionalis

New York Status: Endangered*
Federal Status: Endangered*

*On November 29, 2022, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a ruling reclassifying Northern Long-eared Bat from Threatened to Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. This rule is effective March 31, 2023. The change to Endangered in New York will take place at the same time as the Federal listing.

Distribution and Habitat

Northern Long-eared Bat in Hibernation
A northern long-eared bat
in its hibernaculum.

Northern long-eared bats (NLEB), also known as northern Myotis, are primarily forest-dependent insectivores. They utilize a diversity of forest habitats for roosting, foraging and raising young. In general, any tree large enough to have a cavity or that has loose bark may be utilized by NLEB for roosting or rearing young. Prior to 2006, NLEB were frequently detected in the forests of every county of New York State with the exception of the 5 counties of New York City. Since they feed predominantly on flying insects, they hibernate through the late fall and early spring to save energy when food is not available. Most known hibernation sites are caves or abandoned mines.

A Species in Decline

NLEB were listed as "threatened" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the federal Endangered Species Act on April 2, 2015. In New York, all federally threatened species that occur in the state are afforded threatened status under the New York Endangered Species Law and its implementing regulations. As recently as 2005, the NLEB was New York State's third most common bat species with populations estimated at or above 500,000 animals. The federal listing was the result of a dramatic population decline throughout most of the species' range. These declines have been caused by white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease caused by an invasive fungus that ultimately causes affected hibernating bats to starve to death over the winter. Since WNS was first discovered in New York in 2006, a 98% decline in the abundance of NLEB has been observed. DEC is actively working with researchers from around North America to develop a management approach that will aid the recovery of this species. In the meantime, legal protections afforded by the listing status of the bat are focused on minimizing and avoiding direct loss of the remaining individuals by protecting the known hibernation sites and limiting forest management activities where NLEB are most likely to be present to certain times of the year.

General Recommendations for the Protection of Northern Long-eared Bats in New York

This section provides guidance regarding recommended measures to ensure that forest management activities are protective of the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) and do not result in an incidental take pursuant to 6NYCRR Part 182.

Guidance from DEC

Because it is the disease (WNS) and not habitat that is currently limiting the population, removal of trees from the landscape is generally not considered harmful unless there are potentially bats within the trees during the time they are harvested or otherwise removed from the landscape. We do not have perfect information on where NLEB occur. To protect NLEB from unintentional harm, the Department encourages the voluntary implementation of all forest management activities during the hibernation period-November 1 through March 31 throughout the state and December 1 through February 28 in Suffolk County-when bats are not expected to be present. However, DEC imposes no restrictions on tree cutting unless a project is located within 5 miles of a known hibernation site or 1.5 miles of a documented summer occurrence. See the Protection of Northern Long-eared Bats page for a map and list of known NLEB occurrences by town. For all projects that require the removal of trees, the following voluntary actions are recommended:

  • Leave snag and cavity trees uncut unless their removal is necessary for protection of human life and property. Snag and cavity trees are defined under DEC Program Policy ONR-DLF-2 Retention on State Forests.
  • If any bats are observed flying from a tree, or on a tree that has been cut, tree management activities in the area should be suspended and DEC Wildlife staff notified as soon as possible. A permit may be required to continue work, or you may have to wait until November 1 to resume activities.

If your project is located within 5 miles of a known hibernation site or 1.5 miles of a documented summer occurrence, please see Protection of Northern Long-eared Bats for additional guidance.

For more information on other species of bats, visit Watchable Wildlife.

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