USFWS Announces New Rule to Save Northern Long-Eared Bats

USFWS Announces New Rule to Save Northern Long-Eared Bats

The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Wednesday (Jan. 13) a final rule to protect the northern long-eared bat populations, which have decreased significantly due to the spread of a fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.

The rule will grant protection to northern long-eared bats, also known as northern long-eared myotis, across almost forty U.S. states and some Canadian provinces.

The bats have become threatened in recent years, mainly because of the white-nose syndrome (WNS) – an emerging disease in North American bats that can spread at an alarming rate. Millions of bat deaths have so far been linked to the disease, according to officials.

The white-nose syndrome – caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans – is thought to compromise the bats’ ability to survive the winter and it disrupts their hibernation cycle.

Dan Ashe, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said that large numbers of northern long-eared bats are threatened by the white-nose syndrome. However, the outlook of the bat species will not improve until experts find a solution to the disease outbreak.

The northern long-eared bats have been listed as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which means that they at risk of becoming endangered in the near future. (note: under the ESA ‘endangered’ means likely to become extinct within the foreseeable future)

To implement new protective regulations that are necessary for proper conservation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided to invoke section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act.

Last April, an interim 4(d) rule was announced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It was meant to ban incidental take of bats from the areas affected due to the white-nose syndrome and purposeful take of bats throughout their range – unless it was to assure human safety and health, or in the case of removal from man-made structures.

Incidental take refers to harm caused because of road building, forest management, tree removal, etc. Purposeful take refers to intentional harming, killing, or harassment of the northern long-eared bats.

The final 4(d) rule protects trees where bats roost in the months of June and July and give birth to offspring. It also withdraws the incidental take prohibitions in areas where the white-nose syndrome has not yet spread.

According to USFWS Director Ashe, there is still hope in the battle against white-nose syndrome since now most of the northern long-eared bats’ range falls under the final 4(d) rule. A concrete solution to the problem may soon be available, he added.

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