The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats may warrant federal protection as threatened or endangered species, following an initial review of a petition seeking to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act.
FWS will initiate a more thorough status review for both bats to determine whether these species should be added to the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife.
The northern long-eared bat occurs across much of the eastern and north-central United States and across all Canadian provinces west to the southern Northwest Territories and eastern British Columbia. The species range includes Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The species is variably distributed and rarely found in large numbers.
The eastern small-footed bat occurs from eastern Canada and New England south to Alabama and Georgia and west to Oklahoma. Eastern small-footed bats are believed to be rare throughout their range, although they are more common in the northern than in the southern United States.
On Jan. 21, 2010, FWS received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that the two species of bats be listed as threatened or endangered and that critical habitat be designated under the ESA.
Information in the petition and FWS' files indicates that the continued existence of one or both of these species may be threatened by several factors, including habitat destruction and degradation, disturbance of hibernation areas and maternity roosts, and impacts related to white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that that has killed more than 1 million cave-hibernating bats since its discovery in 2006. Existing regulations of these activities may be inadequate to protect the two species.
Today's decision, commonly known as a 90-day petition finding, is based on scientific and commercial information about the species provided in the petition requesting protection of the species under the ESA. The petition finding does not mean that the Service has decided it is appropriate to protect the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared bats under the ESA. Rather, this finding is the first step in a process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available. The finding was to be published in the Federal Register June 29.
FWS is particularly looking for information on distribution, status, population size or trends; life history; and threats to these species.
Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before Aug. 29. FWS will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.
In addition, the Service is proactively collecting information on several other bat species believed to be susceptible to white-nose syndrome to determine if, in addition to existing threats, the disease may be increasing the extinction risk of these species. These species include the little brown bat, big brown bat, tri-colored bat, cave myotis and southeastern myotis.