Throughout North America, white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that first struck this continent in 2006, is devastating bat populations.
Seven species of bats have been affected by the epidemic in 22 states and five Canadian provinces. Some populations have lost more than 90 percent of their bats.
Northern long-eared bats have declined by 98 percent in white-nose-affected areas. Eastern small-footed bats--already rare, were even harder hit. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned in 2010 to get both species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued its decision: Northern long-eared bats are being proposed for protections, but eastern small-footed bats aren't. The Service is taking comments on the decision through Dec. 2, and big oil and gas companies are already lining up to oppose the protections.
Tell the Service not to bow to industry pressure and finalize protections for northern long-eared bats, and reconsider helping eastern small-footed bats, before they are gone forever.
I'm writing to support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered.
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White-nose syndrome has already devastated this species, and the disease is likely to spread throughout northern long-eared bat range as it sweeps the continent -- probably in the short to medium term.
No effective treatment has been found for white-nose syndrome, and new science on the characteristics of the pathogenic fungus indicates that it may be even more resilient and persistent in bats' subterranean habitats than previously thought. And northern long-eared bats have a very low reproductive rate: Even if individuals develop resistance to this malady -- and there's no evidence of this yet -- the rate of recovery will be very slow. These imperiled bats need strong conservation and recovery measures.
The loss of such a large portion of northern long-eared bats' global population due to white-nose syndrome highlights the need to address and minimize other threats -- direct and indirect. Other sources of harm include human disturbances at caves and mines; habitat loss and degradation due to logging, mining, fracking, development and highway construction; pesticides; water pollution; and wind energy.
I also urge the Service to revisit the status of eastern small-footed bats -- which have been denied protective status under the Endangered Species Act. While the species has not, apparently, had the extreme population declines that northern long-eared bats have, its baseline numbers prior to the outbreak of white-nose syndrome were already low. This qualified eastern small-footed bats for endangered or threatened status in numerous states.
The species is notoriously difficult to survey due to its solitary habits and roosting sites on cliffs, rock piles and talus slopes. It is difficult to assess population trends in a species already rare, and I am concerned that by the time the Service gets more definitive data, it may be too late for the eastern small-footed bat.