Northern bat showing visible symptoms of white-nose syndrome. LaSalle County, Illinois. January 2013 (University of Illinois/Steve Taylor)
WASHINGTON (CBS19 NEWS) — There is now a proposal to reclassify the northern myotis as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service says the species is currently listed as threatened, but is at risk of extinction due to the impact of white nose syndrome, a deadly disease that affects bats. caves across the United States.
According to a release, bats are essential to healthy ecosystems and contribute at least $3 billion annually to the US agricultural economy through pest control and pollination.
Reclassifying this species would highlight conservation efforts before its decline becomes irreversible.
“White-nose syndrome is devastating northern bats at an unprecedented rate, as this scientific finding indicates,” said Charlie Wooley, regional director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “The service is deeply committed to continuing our vital research with partners on reducing the impacts of White Nose Syndrome, while working with various stakeholders to conserve the Northern Myotis and reduce impacts on landowners.”
Since its introduction to this country, white-nose syndrome has spread to almost 80% of the range of the northern myotis, including almost the entire range of the species. in the United States since it was listed as threatened in 2015. This range includes all of Virginia.
The statement said this proposal to change the status of the species came after a review found that the population continues to decline and now meets the definition of endangered as described in the ESA.
Wildlife officials say there is a strong basis for working with stakeholders to conserve bat species while allowing economic activities in the range to continue.
For example, there are currently 16 habitat conservation plans in place for the wind energy industry. 13 more are in development.
Such habitat conservation plans allow wind energy projects to proceed after minimizing and mitigating their impacts on wildlife such as the northern myotis.
The FWS found that white-nose syndrome is expected to affect the entire range of the northern myotis by 2025, and this fungus has caused declines of between 97 and 100% in affected populations.
Species listed as endangered are currently in danger of extinction, while those listed as threatened are defined as likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
The release says the northern myotis is found in 37 states and Canadian provinces between the Atlantic coast, southern Northwest Territories and eastern British Columbia.
The species spends the winter hibernating in caves and abandoned mines, then roosts in small colonies or individually inside trees during the summer.
The species feeds mainly on moths, flies, leafhoppers, caddisflies and beetles.
In order to address the threat of white-nose syndrome to multiple bat species, a coordinated effort is underway involving more than 150 nongovernmental organizations, institutions, tribes, and state and federal agencies.
This National White-nose Syndrome Response Team conducts research and develops management strategies to minimize the impact of the disease and help affected bat populations recover.
The northern myotis reclassification proposal can be found here. Comments can be submitted until May 23.
Comments may also be mailed to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R3–ES–2021–0140, US Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.
For more information on the northern myotis, click here.