U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to put the northern long-eared bat on the endangered species list.
Wind energy development, habitat destruction and climate change have been ongoing threats to the northern long-eared bat, whose habitat ranges throughout the Midwest, Eastern United States and into Canada.
The spread of white nose syndrome in the past two years has only put the population under more pressure.
“The primary threat to the species and the primary driving force behind this listing is white nose syndrome, which is a disease that has killed very large numbers of cave hibernating bats,” says Lori Pruitt, Indiana U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species coordinator.
The fungal disease has killed 5.5 million bats throughout North America and Canada. In the Northeast the number of northern long-eared bats has declined by 99 percent since symptoms of white-nose syndrome were first observed seven years ago.
But Indiana State University Bat Research Center director Joy O’Keefe says the decrease in Indiana has been less.
“Just this year for first time there was a hint that there might be a decline in the population, but we actually we saw lower numbers of captures across many species,” she says. “We think it is more tied to weather than actual population decline, and it will take a couple more years before we will really be able to pin that down.”
Over the next year officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will evaluate the proposal. If it is approved for listing as an endangered species the northern long-eared bat will be protected and federal agencies will develop a plan for recovery.