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Two U.S. Bat Species Headed for Endangered Species Act Protection
RICHMOND, VA - June 28 - In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined today that two bat species, the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats, may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act and initiated a formal status review. The two bats are severely threatened by a recently discovered and quickly spreading disease known as white-nose syndrome.
“Hibernating bats across the eastern U.S. are dying by the millions,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope today's announcement will serve as a wake up call for urgent action to save our bats.”
In five years, white-nose syndrome or the fungus suspected to cause it has spread from upstate New York to 19 states and four Canadian provinces, reaching from Nova Scotia to western Oklahoma. It causes mortality rates of 70 to 100% in affected bat populations. Biologists now estimate that well over 1 million bats are dead from the syndrome, and believe that eventually, all 25 hibernating bat species in North America may be affected.
“The writing is on the cave wall," said Matteson. "If action isn't taken to close caves in uninfected areas, conduct research on treatment and protect bats from other threats, we will lose these two bat species and perhaps many others.”
The two bat species the Center petitioned to have listed as endangered were already rare prior to the appearance of white-nose syndrome and are now at grave risk of extinction. The eastern small-footed bat ranges in the Northeastern United States south along the Appalachian chain to Missouri. At 3-4 grams, it is one of North America's smallest bats, including its small feet. The northern long-eared bat’s range extends from eastern North America across to the Midwest and northward across Canada and true to its name has long ears that when pointed forward, extend past the muzzle. It is strongly associated with mature and old-growth forests. Both hibernate in caves and abandoned mines in winter and in addition to white-nose syndrome, are threatened by logging, energy development and likely pollution.
“Without aggressive efforts to secure their habitat and stem further losses from all causes, including human transmission of the new bat disease, these bats may soon join the sad list of American species we know only from textbooks and museums,” said Matteson.
A recent study published in the journal Science estimated that the value of bug-eating bats’ free pest-control services to American farmers is worth $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year. Bats have been documented to eat significant quantities of insects that attack crops, including corn, cotton, cabbage, tomatoes, fruit trees, and timber.