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Montana Field Guides

Little Brown Myotis - Myotis lucifugus
Other Names:  Little Brown Bat

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G3G4
State Rank: S3
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
USFS: Sensitive - Known in Forests (BD, BRT, KOOT)

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species is common and widespread, but under significant threat of catastrophic declines due to White-Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease responsible for the collapse of populations of this species in the eastern US.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 09/25/2018
    Range Extent

    ScoreG - 200,000-2,500,000 km squared (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)

    Comment380,531 square Kilometers from Natural Heritage Program range maps

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreE - Relatively Stable (±25% change)

    CommentHabitat is likely stable within +/- 25% since European settlement. Species readily uses buildings and bridges as active season roosts, so any potential decrease in tree or rock outcrop roost has likely been offset through use of these structures.

    Short-term Trend

    ScoreE - Stable. Population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences unchanged or remaining within ±10% fluctuation

    CommentWithin the last 10-15 years, this species has been detected frequently on acoustic and mistnetting surveys across the state, with no apparent positive or negative trend is abundance or frequency of capture. Based on this, the population status is probably best regarded as stable within +/- 10%.


    ScoreB - Moderate and imminent threat. Threat is moderate to severe and imminent for a significant proportion (20-60%) of the population or area.

    CommentAlthough this species has suffered severe declines due to White-Nose Syndrome in the eastern US and Canada, it remains to be seen if differences in hibernacula used by western populations will change disease transmission dynamics and reduce the severity of population impacts

    SeverityModerate - Major reduction of species population or long-term degradation or reduction of habitat in Montana, requiring 50-100 years for recovery.

    CommentThe extent of WNS impacts in the west is currently unknown. If the disease dynamics are similar to the east coast, we may see declines of up to 100% for this species (High). Because many of or bats overwinter in hibernacula outside of caves, disease transmission dynamics may differ for western popualtions.

    ScopeModerate - 20-60% of total population or area affected

    CommentVery few of our bats hibernate in caves and mines so if WNS only affects individuals using these features, Scope will be Insignificant. However, if individuals that overwinter in rock outcrops are susceptible to this disease the Scope will be High.

    ImmediacyModerate - Threat is likely to be operational within 2-5 years.

    CommentBased on the average rate of spread, we should expect to detect WNS or the causal pathogen to reach Montana within 5 years.

    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    ScoreB - Moderately Vulnerable. Species exhibits moderate age of maturity, frequency of reproduction, and/or fecundity such that populations generally tend to recover from decreases in abundance over a period of several years (on the order of 5-20 years or 2-5 generations); or species has moderate dispersal capability such that extirpated populations generally become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).

    CommentSpecies is long lived and has low fecundity. As these animals can fly, dispersal to and recolonization of extirpated populations is possible.

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreC - Moderate. Generalist. Broad-scale or diverse (general) habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors are used or required by the species but some key requirements are scarce in the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.

    CommentDuring the active season species uses a variety of habitats with roosts and water as limiting factors. Hibernates in caves and mines in Montana but may also use rock outcrops including talus slopes.

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 3.5 + 0 (geographic distribution) + 0 (environmental specificity) + 0 (short-term trend) + -0.75 (threats) = 2.75

General Description
The most common bat species in Montana (Foresman 2012). Cinnamon-buff to dark brown above, buffy to pale gray below; hairs on back have long glossy tips; ears, when laid forward, reach approximately to the nostril; tragus about half as high as ear; calcar without keel; length of head and body 41 to 54 mm, ear 11.0 to 15.5 mm, forearm 33 to 41 mm; braincase rises gradually from rostrum; greatest length of skull 14 to 16 mm; length of upper toothrow 5.0 to 6.6 mm (Hall 1981).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Can be distinguished from all but one of the seven Myotis species in Montana by the absence of a fringe of hair around the uropatagium and the absence of a keeled calcar. Can be distinguished from Yuma myotis by the glossy appearance of the dorsal hair and dark brown ear color. (Foresman 2012)

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Western Hemisphere Range


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1847

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

This species is resident year-round in Montana, but may be partially migratory because known winter aggregations are much smaller than the apparent size of summer populations.

Found in a variety of habitats across a large elevation gradient. Commonly forages over water. Summer day roosts include attics, barns, bridges, snags, loose bark, and bat houses. Known maternity roosts in Montana are primarily buildings. Hibernacula include caves and mines.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Mostly insects, including gnats, mosquitoes, crane flies, beetles, wasps, and moths. Prey often caught with tip of wing then transferred immediately to mouth.

Males and females mostly segregated during summer, females often in maternity colonies of up to a thousand individuals or more. Can live more than 30 years.

Reproductive Characteristics
Females have one young per year, usually born late June and July.

Maternity colonies are vulnerable to exclusion from buildings; bat boxes attached to the building that formerly housed the colony may provide alternate roosts if properly designed and placed to offer warm temperatures, wide internal temperature gradients, and sufficient width to allow many bats to roost side by side (Brittingham and Williams 2000).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Brittingham, M.C. and L.M. Williams. 2000. Bat Boxes as Alternative Roosts for Displaced Bat Maternity Colonies. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 28(1): 197-207.
    • Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
    • Hall, E.R. 1981. The mammals of North America, volumes I and II. John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. 1181 pp.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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    • Weaver, K.N., S.E. Alfano, A.R. Kronquist, and D.M. Reeder. 2009. Healing rates of wing punch wounds in free-ranging little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus). Acta Chiropterologica 11(1): 220-223.
    • Weller, T. J., S. A. Scott, T. J. Rodhouse, P. C. Ormsbee, and J. M. Zinck. 2007. Field identification of the cryptic vespertilionid bats, Myotis lucifugus and M. yumanensis. Acta Chiropterologica 9:133-147.
    • Weller, T.J. and D.C. Lee. 2007. Mist Net Effort Required to Inventory a Forest Bat Species Assemblage. Journal of Wildlife Management 71(1): 251-257.
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    • Whitaker Jr., J.O. and T.J. O'Shea. 2004. Prey selection in a temperate zone insectivorous bat community. Journal of Mammalogy 85(3): 460-469.
    • Whitaker, J., D. Sparks, V. Brack. 2006. Use of Artificial Roost Structures by Bats at the Indianapolis International Airport. Environmental Management 38(1): 28-36.
    • Whitaker, J.O., H.K. Dannelly, and D.A. Prentice. 2004. Chitinase in Insectivorous Bats. Journal of Mammalogy 85(1): 15-18.
    • Wilcox, A. and C.K.R. Willis. 2016. Energetic benefits of enhanced summer roosting habitat for little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) recovering from white-nose syndrome. Conservation Physiology. 4(1): cov070.
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    • Wilder, A.P., T.H. Kunz, and M.D. Sorenson. 2015. Population genetic structure of a common host predicts the spread of white-nose syndrome, an emerging infectious disease in bats. Molecular Ecology 24(22): 5495-5506.
    • Wilder, A.P., W.F. Frick, K.E. Langwig, and T.H. Kunz. 2011. Risk factors associated with mortality from white-nose syndrome among hibernating bat colonies. Biology Letters 7(6): 950-953.
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    • Wolfe, M.L. and A. Kozlowski. 2006. Bat inventories at Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, FInal Report. Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit. Utah State University. Logan, UT. 26 pp.
    • Worthington, D.J. 1991. Abundance and distribution of bats in the Pryor Mountains of south central Montana and north eastern Wyoming. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT.
    • Worthington, D.J. and H.N. Ross. 1990. Abundance and distribution of bats in the Pryor Mountains of south central Montana. Unpublished report for the Montana Natural Heritage Program. 20 p.
    • Wund, M.A. 2006. Variation in the Echolocation Calls of Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) in Response to Different Habitats. American Midland Naturalist 156(1): 99-108.
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Little Brown Myotis — Myotis lucifugus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from