Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 19, 2017

Contact:  Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,
Haley McKey (202) 772-0247,

Tricolored Bat Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

Deadly White-nose Syndrome Has Decimated Tiny Bat Species

WASHINGTON— In response to a scientific petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced tricolored bats may warrant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The tricolored bat’s precipitous decline is due primarily to the deadly disease known as white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions of hibernating bats across the United States and Canada.

“We’re glad this little bat is one step closer to the protection it so desperately needs to survive,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If this bat’s going to make it, the Trump administration needs to dramatically boost research efforts to find a cure for white-nose syndrome and protect its habitat.” 

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that originated in Europe and may have been brought to North America by people visiting caves here. It was first discovered in upstate New York in 2006 and has spread fast, affecting at least seven species of hibernating bats so far.

Tricolored bats are among North America’s smallest bats and have one of the longest hibernation periods. Because of their long hibernation and preference for hibernating sites with a temperature range that is ideal for the fungus, they’re extremely vulnerable to white-nose syndrome, suffering close to 100 percent mortality in infected sites. Since they also have low reproductive rates, tricolored bats have been nearly extirpated from several states.

“Endangered species protections would give the tricolored bat a real shot at survival, and the clock is ticking,” said Defenders of Wildlife Southeast Representative Kat Diersen. “Those protections would require federal and state agencies to take far more care to protect caves where the bats roost and hibernate, and hopefully boost veterinary responses to white-nose syndrome.”

Even before the catastrophic advent of the fungus, tricolored bat numbers were dropping because of disturbances by people at their hibernation and roost sites, collisions with wind turbines, habitat loss to development and agriculture, pesticide poisoning and extreme weather caused by climate change.

Weighing between about .1 and .3 ounces, the tricolored bat is the smallest bat in the East and Midwest. Its size and a fluttery, slow flying style sometimes lead it to be mistaken for a moth. Its fur appears yellowish-brown to reddish, while each individual hair is “tricolored,” brown at the tip, yellow in the middle and dark at the base.

Tricolored bats are entirely insectivorous, helping limit mosquitoes and agricultural pests.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1947 focused on conserving and restoring native species and the habitats upon which they depend. Defenders has more than 1,200,000 members and supporters nationwide.

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