For Immediate Release, June 28, 2011
Contact: Mollie Matteson, (802) 318-1487
Two U.S. Bat Species One Step Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection
RICHMOND, Vt.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided today that two bat species, the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats, may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. Both are severely threatened by a recently discovered and quickly spreading disease known as white-nose syndrome.
“Hibernating bats across the eastern United States are dying by the millions,” said Mollie Matteson with the Center for Biological Diversity, which has pushed for increased research funding for the disease and petitioned to ban nonessential human travel in caves on public land. “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 percent to 100 percent in affected bat populations. Biologists now estimate that more than 1 million bats have died from the disease. Eventually, all 25 hibernating bat species in North America may be affected.
“The writing is on the 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 from the northeastern United States south along the Appalachian chain to Missouri. Weighing less than half a pound, it’s one of North America's smallest bats. The northern long-eared bat’s range extends from eastern North America across to the Midwest and northward across Canada; the animal’s long ears, when pointed forward, extend past its muzzle. It is strongly associated with mature and old-growth forests.
Both hibernate in caves and abandoned mines in winter. In addition to white-nose syndrome, they are threatened by logging, energy development and probably by pollution. In accordance with today's decision, the Fish and Wildlife Service will now conduct a status review of each species.
“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 known only from textbooks and museums,” said Matteson.
A recent study published in the journal Science estimated that the value of insect-eating bats’ 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.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
To learn more about bats and white-nose syndrome, go to http://www.saveourbats.org.