A species of cave bat whose population has been affected by a deadly disease has been reclassified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The northern long-eared bat has been ravaged by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome that infects bats during hibernation. The disease has caused the bat’s population to decline by 97%.
The disease makes the bats wake up to warm temperatures more frequently during hibernation, using up their fat reserves and starving them before spring arrives. Afflicted bats that survive their hibernation then suffer from acidification and dehydration.
“This listing is an alarm bell and a call to action,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Martha Williams. “White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates. The service is deeply committed to working with partners on a balanced approach that reduces the impacts of disease and protects the survivors to recover northern long-eared bat populations.”
The listing requires federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure projects they fund or authorize will not affect the bat’s existence.
The bats have been found in Indiana and the rest of the eastern U.S. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources lists the bat as endangered under state law.
White-nose syndrome also affects 11 other different bat species, including the endangered Indiana bat. Another bat species greatly affected by the disease, the tricolored bat, was proposed for federal protection in September.