Tricolor bats proposed to be added to endangered species list

Tricolor bat (Perimyotis subflavus). Photo: Weber/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposal list the tricolor bat (Perimyotis subflavuslisten)) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The species is threatened with extinction primarily due to the range-wide impacts of White Noise Syndrome, a deadly disease affecting cave bats across the continent.

Bats are essential to healthy ecosystems and contribute at least $3 billion annually to the US agricultural economy through pest control and pollination. The growing extinction crisis highlights the importance of ESA and efforts to conserve species before declines become irreversible.

“White-nose syndrome is decimating hibernating bat species like the tricolor bat at an unprecedented rate,” service director Martha Williams said in the press release. “Bats play such an important role in ensuring a healthy ecosystem. The Service is deeply committed to continuing our vital research and collaborative efforts with partners to mitigate further impacts and restore populations of the tricolored bat.

The tricolor bat is found east of the Rocky Mountains in 39 U.S. states and the District of Columbia; in four Canadian provinces, from the Atlantic coast west to the Great Lakes; and in parts of eastern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Nicaragua.

The proposal to list the tri-colored bat follows an extensive review which found that the species had declined so much across its range that it now meets the definition of endangered under the ESA. White noise syndrome has caused declines estimated at over 90% of affected tricolor bat colonies and is currently present in 59% of the species’ range.

The disease causing their decline is caused by the growth of a fungus that sometimes looks like white fuzz on the snouts and wings of bats. The fungus thrives in cold, dark, damp places and infects bats during hibernation. Affected bats wake up more frequently, often leading to dehydration and starvation before spring arrives. Only bats are known to be affected by white nose syndrome, which has been confirmed in 38 states and eight Canadian provinces.

Three-colored bats are vulnerable to disease during the winter, when they hibernate in caves and abandoned mines and tunnels. In spring, summer, and autumn, they mainly roost among leaf clusters of living or recently dead trees, emerging at dusk to hunt for insects above streams and forest edges.

While white-nose syndrome is by far the most serious threat to the tricolor myotis, other threats now take on greater significance due to the species’ dramatic population declines. These threats, which are exacerbated by climate change variables such as changes in temperature and precipitation, include disturbance of bats in their roosting, foraging, commuting and wintering habitats and mortality at wind power installations.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has established a strong foundation for working with stakeholders to conserve bats while allowing economic activities within the range to continue, and will continue to build on those this in light of the endangered status of the tricolor bats. For example, through the use of habitat conservation plans, wind energy projects can proceed after minimizing and mitigating their impacts on tricolor bats.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the critical habitat designation is not conservative because the current or threatened destruction, alteration, or reduction of the species’ habitat or range has not no significant effects throughout the species’ range. Additionally, identifying the locations of bat roosts may increase the risk of direct harm to tricolored bats or habitat modification and vandalism.

The proposal follows that of March 2022 announcement of a similar finding for the northern myotis, which the Service has recommended be upgraded from threatened to endangered primarily due to white-nose syndrome. Endangered species are those that are in danger of becoming extinct, while threatened species are defined as likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.

When a species is listed under the Endangered Species Actthe Service works with industry and others to find strategies to avoid taking (harming, harassing, killing) using our various conservation tools, authorities and programs authorized under Section 7 and section 10 of the Act. These tools include consultation and habitat conservation plans that provide management flexibility and predictability to landowners, project managers and other non-federal groups while ensuring the long-term conservation of listed species. . The Service is working with a number of Federal Section 7 agencies and non-Federal Section 10 entities in anticipation of the potential listing of the Tricolor Myotis.

To address the growing threat of white-nose syndrome to the tricolor bat and other bats in North America, the service runs the National White Nose Syndrome Response Team, a coordinated effort of more than 150 nongovernmental organizations, institutions, tribes, and state and federal agencies. Together, we conduct critical research on white-nose syndrome and develop management strategies to minimize the impacts of the disease and restore affected bat populations. To date, this effort has resulted in scientific advances that include the identification of critical information about white nose syndrome and its impacts on North American bat species. The team has developed and uses disease surveillance tools to monitor spread and impacts, and is testing biological, chemical, immunological, genetic and mechanical treatments in a number of states to improve bat survival.

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