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For Immediate Release, May 9, 2013

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Townsend's Big-eared Bat One Step Closer to Protection Under California Endangered Species Act

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a report today finding that the Townsend’s big-eared bat may warrant protection as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. The question of whether to make the bat a candidate for endangered status, which provides immediate protection, will be discussed at the next Fish and Game Commission meeting on May 22. 

“There’s no question that the Townsend’s big-eared bat faces myriad threats and needs protection to survive in California,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re thrilled the Department of Fish and Wildlife accepted the strong science we presented in the petition and recognized this unique bat may warrant protection.”

The bat, which is known for its long ears, 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 already wiped out nearly 7 million bats across the eastern United States.

“To have any chance of survival, these bats need protection right away under California’s Endangered Species Act,” said Greenwald. “Townsend’s big-eared and other bats provide a valuable service for California farmers by eating millions of insects that would otherwise attack crops. But they need our care if they’re going to survive and keep providing this service.”

White-nose syndrome is a potential new and severe threat to the Townsend’s big-eared bat. 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. Although it has not yet reached western states, the rapid rate of its 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. Although white-nose syndrome is widely found in Europe, it does not harm bats there. 

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

Townsend’s big-eared bats are found throughout most of California, including in deserts, coastal redwood forests, and forests and woodlands in the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada, but they are concentrated in areas with caves and cave‐like roosting habitat, such as mines, buildings and bridges. They are highly sensitive to human disturbance of their roosts sites, abandoning caves or other structures following human intrusion. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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