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For Immediate Release, October 18, 2012

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

California Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Townsend's Big-eared Bat

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the California Fish and Wildlife Commission today seeking protection for the Townsend’s big-eared bat under the California Endangered Species Act. The bat has declined steeply in recent decades and is severely threatened by a combination of habitat destruction, disturbance of roost sites and the potential introduction of white-nose syndrome, a disease that has been wiping bats out by the millions across the eastern United States.  

Townsend's big-eared bat
Photo by Ann Froschauer, USFWS. This photo is available for media use.

“Townsend’s big-eared bats are in real trouble in California. To have any chance of survival, they need protection right away under California’s Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center. “The state’s Department of Fish and Game has known how precarious the bat’s situation is for a long time, but has failed to do anything about it.”

In 2011 Fish and Game developed a draft conservation plan for bats that identified Townsend’s as being of greatest concern, but the agency has never finalized the plan. The 80-page petition submitted today relies on information in that draft plan and dozens of other studies finding these bats have sharply declined over the past 50 years and are very sensitive to destruction and disturbance of their roosting sites. 

“Townsend’s big-eared and other bats provide a valuable service for California farmers by eating millions of insects that would otherwise attack crops,” said Greenwald. “But they simply have to have our care if they’re going to survive and keep providing this service.”

A potential new and severe threat to the Townsend’s big-eared bat is white-nose syndrome. This fungal disease was first detected in a commercial cave in upstate New York in 2006 and has since spread across most of the eastern United States and killed nearly 7 million bats. Although it has not yet reached western states, the rapid rate of spread in the East indicates the need for preventative measures. The disease is known to be carried on the shoes, clothes or gear of people, which is believed to be the most likely vector for the fungus to have arrived from Europe, where it is found widely but does not harm bats. 

“Right now, before this disease strikes, we should be identifying the caves in California  that are home to Townsend’s big-eared bats and restricting human access so we can save them,” said Greenwald. “It’d be tragic to see our bats killed off by bureaucratic delay.” 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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