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For Immediate Release, June 27, 2013

Contact:  Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Townsend's Big-eared Bat Protected Under California Endangered Species Act

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Wildlife Commission late yesterday named the Townsend’s big-eared bat a candidate for protection as an endangered species under the state’s Endangered Species Act. Candidate status provides immediate protection to the bat, which occurs across much of the state but is widely threatened by human disturbance and habitat destruction. 

“I’m so glad these intriguing big-eared bats are getting the protection they need to survive in California,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Townsend’s bats can be saved by protecting the caves, mines, old trees and old buildings they use for roosting and hibernating.”

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.  

“Townsend’s big-eared bats, along with other bats, have been giving California farmers a major free service for as long as the land has been farmed: They eat millions of insects that would otherwise attack crops. But now they need something from us — our help to save them from an epidemic. They need a lifeline if they’re going to survive and keep offering us this natural pest-control service,” said Greenwald.

White-nose syndrome poses a new, potentially serious threat to the Townsend’s big-eared bat. Since being detected in a commercial cave in upstate New York in 2006, this fungal disease, which kills hibernating bats, has spread across most of the eastern United States. 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. Although white-nose syndrome is widely found in Europe, it does not kill bats there. Restricting access to caves where bats roost is an important means to ensure the disease does not spread to California. 

“Right now, before this disease strikes, is exactly when we need to be identifying the caves in California that are home to bats and restricting human access,” said Greenwald. “It’d be tragic to see our bats killed off because we failed to take action.” 

Townsend’s big-eared bats are found throughout most of California, including deserts, coastal redwood forests, and forests and woodlands in the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada, but are concentrated in areas with caves and cave‐like roosting habitat, such as mines, buildings, bridges and basal hollows in big old-growth trees. 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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