Bat nominated for endangered listing | News, Sports, Jobs

(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via AP) This undated file photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shows a northern bat. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to put it on the endangered species list.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials on Tuesday proposed designating the once common northern bat, ravaged by a deadly fungus, as an endangered species.

The population has plummeted since colonies infected with white-nose syndrome were spotted in New York caves in the mid-2000s. The bat is likely to disappear without a dramatic turnaround, the US Fish and Wildlife said. Service.

“It’s going to be difficult but we’re going to do everything humanly possible to stop the decline,” said Charlie Wooley, director of the service’s Midwest region.

Named after the white, fuzzy spots that appear on infected bats, white-nose syndrome attacks their wings, snouts, and ears when they hibernate in abandoned caves and mines.

This makes them active and sometimes flies out too soon. They burn their winter fat stores and eventually starve to death.

The origin of the fungus is unknown, but scientists say it can be carried on people’s clothes and shoes. It has spread to a dozen species of American bats, but the northern bat is among the hardest hit.

Found in 37 central and eastern states and much of Canada, it roosts alone or in small groups during the summer in tree cavities or crevices, or under bark. Emerging at dusk, it flies through forests to feed on moths, beetles and other insects.

Bats are thought to give US agriculture a $3 billion annual boost by gobbling up pests and pollinating certain plants.

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern long ears as threatened in 2015. Since then, white nose syndrome has spread to nearly 80% of its range and is expected to cover it entirely by 2025, which which prompted the more severe designation. .

Scientists have no estimate of how many remain, said Shauna Marquardt, supervisor of the agency’s ecological field office for Minnesota and Wisconsin. But they have recorded declines of 97% to 100% in caves where population surveys have been carried out for decades.

“There were maybe thousands before and now we see less than 100, and in some cases they are completely absent,” Marquart said.

Officials will collect public comments until May 23 and decide in November whether to approve the “in danger” designation, which would make it illegal to kill bats. Under the “threatens” status, the agency sets rules for retaining them, but may allow small numbers to be sacrificed for economic development projects.

Preservation efforts include working with loggers, power companies, road builders and other industries to protect trees where bats summer nest and give birth, Wooley said. Winter hibernation areas also need security, he said.

“We have a strong foundation in place to work with stakeholders to conserve the bat while allowing economic activities within the range to continue to occur, and we will continue to build on this” , said a statement from the agency.

Wind turbines also pose a danger to migrating bats, although much less so than white-nose syndrome, Marquardt said. The wind energy industry has 16 habitat conservation plans and is developing 13 more, she said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is leading a campaign involving more than 150 agencies, private organizations, and Native American tribes to research white-nose syndrome, reduce its presence where bats hibernate, and help them recover. Work on a vaccine is underway, Marquardt said.

Approval of endangered status and increased rescue efforts are urgently needed, said Winifred Frick, chief scientist of Bat Conservation International, a research and advocacy group.

“We either need to find a solution to white nose syndrome or find ways to improve the body conditions of the bats that still remain in the landscape to have the best chance of survival,” Frick said.


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