The United States has multiple federal laws and international treaties aimed to protect endangered species. Species conservation is a shared responsibility; our choices and actions are capable of making a difference for the better. As engineers, we at Hoyle Tanner are committed to the protection of endangered and threatened species by working through strict permitting laws and utilizing environmental experts.
Species that are provided protection under the ESA, or “listed,” are either classified as endangered or threatened. All species of plants and animals, except pest insects, are eligible for listing as endangered or threatened. The ESA is administered by the USFWS for terrestrial and freshwater species (the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) administers the ESA for marine species).
Change in Status
In 2015, the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In November of 2022, the USFWS reclassified the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species under the ESA. The bat is currently determined to be facing extinction due to the wide impacts of white-nose syndrome. The rule takes effect on January 30, 2023. The change in the species’ status was determined based on evidence that the northern long-eared bat population nationwide is continuing to decline, despite the 2015 listing as a threatened species, and currently meets the definition of an endangered species under the ESA. White Nose Syndrome is the disease responsible for a species decline of up to 99% in affected northern long-eared bat populations.
Identifying the Northern Long Eared Bat
The northern long eared bat is a brown-toned, medium sized bat with a body length of 3 to 3.7 inches. Named for its unusually long ears in comparison to other bats, the northern long eared bat species range includes 37 states across most of the Eastern and Northern Central United States.
During the winter months, the bats can be found hibernating in caves and mines with constant temperatures, high humidity and limited air flow as hibernacula. In the summer, the northern long eared bats preside primarily in the crevices of dead trees. They feed on moths, flies, leafhoppers, caddisflies, and beetles at dusk. White-nose syndrome, the disease driving their decline, is caused by the growth of a fungus that sometimes looks like white fuzz on bats’ muzzles and wings. The fungus thrives in cold, dark, damp places and infects bats during hibernation. The fungus can cause the animal to act strangely and often leave their hibernacula during the winter months, which often results in dehydration and starvation before spring arrives. Bats are the only species of wildlife known to be affected by white-nose syndrome, which has been confirmed across nearly 80% of the species’ entire range and is expected to affect 100% of the species’ range by the end of the decade.
Protecting the Northern Long Eared Bat
White Nose Syndrome was first identified in New York in 2007 and has since been primarily responsible for the severe decline in species population. Steps in disease management have been taken by many government, non-government and university organizations to decrease the rate the disease is spread.
The USFWS is leading the White-nose Syndrome National Response Team, a coordinated effort of more than 150 non-governmental organizations, institutions, Tribes, and state and federal agencies to address the growing threat of white-nose syndrome to the northern long-eared bat and other bats across North America. Critical white-nose syndrome research is being conducted and management strategies are being developed to minimize the impacts of the disease and recover affected bat populations. This Team’s efforts have yielded scientific advancements including the identification of critical information about white-nose syndrome and its impacts on North American bat species, the development of disease surveillance tools to monitor spread and impacts, and testing of biological, chemical, immunological, genetic and mechanical treatments in a number of states to improve bat survival.
Our federal agency partners at FHWA, FAA and USACE are working towards providing updated guidance on how to address potential impacts to NLEB habitat that may result from development. The Hoyle Tanner team will work with our clients to use this guidance to effectively deliver results that will protect this vital species while advancing projects toward completion.
For more information, visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services website.
How Can You Help?
We share the planet and the responsibility of being hospitable to other creatures. You don’t have to be an environmental specialist to help keep this disease from spreading. Here are a few things you can do:
Do Not Disturb: Cave and mine closures, advisories and regulations are there for a reason. Abide by them. By entering a cave or mine against security standards or recommendations, you could be risking the possibility of disturbing hibernating bats. Waking a hibernating bat can force it to use up valuable energy resources and in turn decrease its chances of surviving the winter. Furthermore, by entering a cave or mine without permission, you may be violating decontamination policies and exposing bats to White Nose Syndrome. Because we still do not know exactly how the disease is spread, you should never utilize clothing, footwear or equipment from an affected area in an unaffected area within the range
Save Dead Trees: A dead tree may be an eyesore compared to the rest of your beautiful yard, but before you cut it down, remember what could be depending on it for survival. Northern long eared bats are forest-dependent creatures that rely on different elements of forests to survive. By removing dead trees during a time when bats may be in the trees, you could be causing harm.
Build a Bat Box: Already cut the tree down? You can replace it with a bat box! By creating this backyard habitat, you are providing a safe and sound location for over 100 bats to roost. “Bat boxes are especially needed from April to August when females look for safe and quiet places to give birth and raise their pups.”
Tell Your Friends: Sometimes you can make the biggest impact by simply spreading the word. There are so many endangered species that need our protection and although a bat with unusually long ears isn’t as glamorous as a tiger or an elephant, it doesn’t make them any less important. Bats play a significant role in regulating the insect population and eliminating crop-destroying pests.
Many people do not understand the role they play in maintaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem. By spreading the word and telling people how they can do their part you will have a significant impact in the ongoing fight for the preservation of the northern long eared bat and endangered species as a whole.