On Tuesday, federal officials proposed that the northern long-eared bat be designated an endangered species. This bat was once quite common, but has been decimated by a deadly fungus.
Since white-nose syndrome colonies were discovered in New York caves during the mid-2000s, the population has been in decline. The U.S. believes that the bat will die without any dramatic changes. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“It’s going be hard but we’re going all in our power to stop the decline,” stated Charlie Wooley (director of the Midwest region).
This syndrome is named for the white fuzzy spots on infected bats. It attacks their ears, ears, and muzzles as they hibernate underground or in abandoned mines.
They become more active and can even fly too often outside. They eventually become starved and burn all their winter fat.
Scientists aren’t sure where the fungus came from, but they believe it could be on clothing and shoes. The fungus has now spread to more than a dozen bat species in the United States, with the northern-eared being the most severely affected.
It is found in many parts of Canada and 37 states in the Eastern and Central regions. It emerges at night and flies through forests to feed on moths, bumblebees, and other insects.
The U.S. agriculture receives $3 billion annually from bats by pollinating certain plants and gobbling up pests.
In 2015, the Fish and Wildlife Service declared the northern long-eared endangered. The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern long-eared as threatened in 2015.
Shauna Marquardt is the supervisor of the agency’s ecological field office in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Scientists don’t know how many are left. However, they have seen drops of 97%-100% in caves that have had population surveys taken over decades.
Marquardt stated that there might have been thousands of them before, but now they are seeing less than 100 and sometimes even absent entirely.
The public will have the opportunity to comment until May 23rd and then the agency will decide in November whether or not to grant the “endangered” designation. This would make it illegal for bats to be killed. The agency can set rules for conservation, but allow some bats to be killed in order to support economic development projects.
Wooley stated that preservation efforts include working with power companies, road builders, and other industries to protect trees where bats nest in the summer and give birth. He said that winter hibernation areas need to be secured as well.
An agency statement stated that “we have a strong foundation for working with stakeholders in conserving the bat while allowing economic activity within the range to continue, and will continue building on these.”
Migrating bats also face danger from wind turbines, Marquardt stated. However, it is less than white-nose syndrome. She said that 16 habitat conservation plans have been developed by the wind energy industry and 13 more are being developed.
The Fish and Wildlife Service leads a campaign that involves more than 150 agencies and private organizations, as well as Native American tribes, to study white-nose syndrome and reduce its presence in areas where bats hibernate. Marquardt stated that work is ongoing to develop a vaccine.
Winifred Frick (chief scientist at Bat Conservation International), a research and advocacy organization, stated that approval of the endangered status is urgently required.
Frick stated, “We need to either find a way to cure white-nose syndrome or improve the conditions of bats that remain on the landscape in order to have the best chance for survival.”