Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii rafinesquii)
This is a medium-sized bat, with a wingspread of 265-301 mm, ears over 2.54 cm long, and two large, fleshy lumps on the dorsolateral area of the snout. The pelage is gray above and near-white below. Males are not as large as females. Breeding appears to take place in the fall and winter and the one young is born late in May or early in June, following formation of nursery colonies in the spring. It prefers to live in forested regions. In the winter, this species may hibernate in caves, though seldom far from the cave’s entrance. This bat is nocturnal, emerging late in the evening after dark. When approached, this bat waves its ears in an apparent effort to track the movements of the intruder through echolocation. Their vocalization has been described as “a low, hoarse bark, rather like a small dog”. In flight, this species is swift and agile. This species is very sensitive to disturbance of its roosting or nursery areas. It is also adversely affected by the use of insecticides. This bat is designated as a federal species of concern.
P.r. rafinesquii has not been found in Virginia but has occurred nearby in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1978, a large nursery colony was found in Hancock County, Tennessee, very close to the Virginia-Tennessee boundary. It ought to occur in caves in southwestern Virginia, but hasn’t been found there. This species prefers forested regions. It may use caves as places to rest, hibernate, or brood young.
This species is insectivorous. It is not known whether or not the big-eared bat specializes in eating one specific type of insect or not. One individual’s stomach contents were examined, and only moths were found inside. This data, however, is inconclusive.