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Northern long-eared bat now listed as endangered after being wiped out by fungal disease – Chicago Tribune

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The Biden administration on Tuesday declared the northern long-eared bat as endangered in the latest effort to save the species, which has been on the brink of extinction due to the fungal disease white-nose syndrome.

“White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at an unprecedented rate,” said Martha Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency is “strongly committed to working with partners on a balanced approach that reduces disease impacts and protects survivors to rebuild northern long-eared bat populations,” she said.

First documented in the US in 2006, 12 species of bats are infected with the disease and killed millions. The northern long-eared bat is one of the most affected, with estimated declines in affected populations of 97% or higher. The bat is found in 37 eastern and north-central states, as well as Washington, DC, and most of Canada.

Named for the white, fuzzy spots that appear on infected bats, white-nose syndrome attacks the wings, snout, and ears of bats as they hibernate in caves and abandoned mines.

This causes them to wake up early from hibernation and sometimes fly outside. They may burn their winter fat stores and starve to death as a result.

The disease has spread to nearly 80% of the northern long-eared bat’s geographic range and is expected to cover the entire area by 2025.

Another species destroyed by the fungus is the tricolor bat, which in September the government proposed to classify as endangered.

Bats are estimated to add $3 billion to U.S. agriculture annually by eating pests and pollinating certain plants.

Fish and Wildlife Service marked by the northern long-eared bat as threatened in 2015. As the situation worsened, the agency proposed listing as endangered in March and considered public comments before deciding to proceed. The reclassification takes effect on January 30, 2023.

In many cases, the service identifies areas of “critical habitat” that are considered particularly important to the survival of endangered species. Officials chose not to do so for the northern long-eared bat because habitat loss is not the primary cause of its decline, spokeswoman Georgia Parham said. Drawing attention to their hibernation sites could make matters worse, she added.

Recovery efforts will focus on forested areas where the bats roost during the summer – usually singly or in small groups, nesting under bark or in tree hollows and crevices. Having emerged at dusk, they feed on moths, beetles and other insects.

Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies must consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that projects they fund or authorize, such as timber harvesting, prescribed fires, and highway construction, will not endanger the existence of listed species. to the species list.

For non-federal landowners, activities that may result in involuntary manslaughter may be permitted, but will require a permit.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it will also work with wind energy companies to reduce the chance of bats hitting turbines. These collisions are currently a threat in about half of the northern long-eared bat’s range, an area likely to grow as wind energy develops.

The service has approved nearly two dozen plans to allow wind energy and forestry projects after steps were taken to make them more bat-friendly, said Karen Herrington, Midwest Regional Endangered Species Coordinator.

Operators can limit the hazard by reducing blade rotation during bat migration season and in light winds.

Research into methods of combating white-nose syndrome, including the development of a vaccine, is ongoing. The service has distributed more than $46 million to the campaign, which involves about 150 agencies, private organizations and Native American tribes.


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