Short-tailed bat Mystacina tuberculata


  • Short-tailed bats have long ears and short, thin tails
  • Short-tailed bats are smaller than a mouse and will fit into the palm of your hand.


  • At present, three sub-species of short-tailed bat are recognised:
    • Northern lesser short-tailed bat (Northland, Auckland), Mystacina tuberculata aupourica, which is classified as Threatened: Nationally Endangered.
    • Central lesser short-tailed bat (Central Plateau, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Wellington), Mystacina tuberculata rhyacobia, which is classified as At Risk: Declining.
    • Southern lesser short-tailed bat (South Island), Mystacina tuberculata tuberculata, which is classified as Threatened: Nationally Endangered.

Interesting Facts

  • Bats are the only native land mammals occurring in New Zealand.
  • Short-tailed bats have no close relatives anywhere in the world.
  • They roost by day in cavities of trees and large hollow tree stumps. No colonies have been found in caves in recent times, but fossil remains are common in caves.
  • Short-tailed bats are active at night, but are rarely seen by people as they emerge after dusk (long-tailed bats emerge at dusk).
  • They navigate and hunt by echolocation, which can sometimes be heard (clicking) without the aid of bat-detectors.
  • Short-tailed bats are the most terrestrial bat in the world. They can fold up their wings and use them like legs to crawl around the forest floor.
  • Short-tailed bats are omnivores. They eat insects, fruit and pollen at or near the forest floor,. They can also catch insects whilst flying, and glean insects from tree trunks and leaves. They are pollinators of some native plants and also disperse seeds of native species.
  • Individuals regularly commute more than 10 km daily to forage.
  • Short-tailed bats can travel long distances to preferred food sources, including Dactylanthus, which they are important pollinators of.
  • Communal roosts can be large and contain thousands of bats.
  • Populations of short-tailed bats can have combined home ranges of well in excess of 100 square km.

Association with Plantations

  • Short-tailed bats have been recorded flying, feeding (foraging) and commuting through plantation forests. These forests are generally near to known short-tailed bat populations in old growth native forests.
  • Short-tailed bats have been radio-tracked to roosts in long dead native trees that are within young Pinus radiata stands.
  • Short-tailed bats will cross open grassland up to 2 km wide to reach foraging areas.
  • Short-tailed bats have been recorded in scrubland, plantations and farmland near old growth forests.


  • Felling of roost trees.
  • Habitat loss and degradation through land development.
  • Habitat impacts of pest species, such as possums, especially on flowering and fruiting cycles.
  • Destruction of key food species such as Dactylanthus.
  • Predation of adults and young by cats, mustelids (particularly stoats), possums and rats.
  • Current research suggests bats may be susceptible to some toxins, e.g. poison in paste form.

Management Options and Methods

  • Identify and protect potential roost trees.
  • Protect indigenous forest remnants.
  • Undertake possum control to 5% RTC (Residual Trap Catch – see glossary).
  • Undertake predator control.
  • Pest control priority is to protect roost trees, but avoid the use of poison pastes.
  • If other threatened species (e.g. falcon, kereru, or kiwi) are also present and they would benefit from predator control, consider implementing integrated cat, mustelid and rat control.
  • Injured or dead bats:
    • Place injured or dead bats in a cardboard box (keep cool) and deliver to a local vet, SPCA, or DOC as soon as possible.
    • Report all injured or dead bats as soon as possible to the local DOC office during office hours or 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) outside office hours.

Monitoring Options

  • Increase staff and contractor knowledge about bats and keep a record of sightings.
  • Survey at night using bat detectors. Placement of bat detectors within old growth forest or near native reserves is most likely to detect short-tailed bats, whereas placement along forest edges, roads and streams is most likely to detect long-tailed bats.
  • Focus monitoring in areas with mature trees (indigenous or exotic) and sites from where bats have been reported.
  • Report findings to DOC national bat database.

Further Information and Support

  • Guidance for identifying and managing bats in plantation forests.
  • Bats in New Zealand poster.
  • Molloy J., Daniel M., O’Donnell C., Lloyd B., and Roberts A. 1995. Bat (Peka Peka) recovery plan (Mystacina, Chalinolobus). Threatened Species Recovery Plan 15. Department of Conservation, Wellington. 25 pp.
  • Pest management – contact DOC or Regional Councils.
  • Lloyd B.D. 2001: Advances in New Zealand mammalogy 1990–2000: Short‐tailed bats. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 31: 59–81..
  • Borkin K. M. and Parsons S. 2010. Plantation forests are used by the lesser short-tailed bat, Mystacina tuberculata rhyacobia. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 37 (1): 13 – 17.