The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The species is one of 11 cave-hibernating bats that are already affected by or are potentially at risk from the devastating fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS).
Since its discovery in 2006, WNS has killed as many as 5.5 million bats in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and Canada. Populations of the northern long-eared bat in the Northeast, says USF&WS, have declined by 99 percent.
Before the emergence of WNS, the northern long-eared bat was found in 39 states in the eastern and north-central United States and all Canadian provinces from the Atlantic Ocean west to the southern Yukon Territory and eastern British Columbia.
The fungus that causes WNS thrives in low temperatures and high humidity — conditions commonly found in caves and mines where northern long-eared bats hibernate.
The disease has spread rapidly throughout the East and is currently establishing a foothold in the Midwest. Although there is debate as to how fast WNS may spread throughout the species’ range, current model predictions suggest it will likely spread throughout the United States.
Bats affected by white-nose syndrome
Eleven cave-hibernating bats, including four endangered species and subspecies, are already affected by or are potentially at risk from WNS.
Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii)
Gray bat (Myotis grisescens) ENDANGERED
Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) ENDANGERED
Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)
Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus)
Bats on which the fungus has been detected:
Cave bat (Myotis velifer)
Southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius)
Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) ENDANGERED
The endangered Ozarks big-eared bat (Corynorhiunus townsendii ingens) has been found in the affected area but hasn’t been confirmed with WNS yet.
The proposal comes at the conclusion of a 12-month review of a petition filed in 2010 by the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians. The groups had asked that both the northern long-eared bat and another species that hibernates in caves and mines, the eastern small-footed bat, be listed.
According to USF&WS, the eastern small-footed bat “has not shown the drastic decline at winter hibernacula compared with that experienced by the northern long-eared bat.” Consequently, the service determined that the eastern small-footed bat does not warrant listing.
The service’s proposal to list the northern long-eared bat opens a 60-day public comment period. Comments must be received by December 2, 2013.
You can find instructions for commenting, along with information on the proposal to list the northern long-eared bat, the petition finding for the eastern small-footed bat, and other endangered species information, on the webpage of the USF&WS Midwest Region’s Endangered Species Program.
For more information about white-nose syndrome visit White-NoseSyndrome.org.