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Northern Long-eared Bat

 

Questions and Answers about the 12-Month Finding on Petition to List Northern Long-eared and Eastern Small-footed Bats and Proposed Listing of Northern Long-eared Bat

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Hibernating northern long-eared bat in Illinois shows signs of white-nose syndrome.

Hibernating northern long-eared bat in Illinois shows signs of white-nose syndrome.

Photo by Steve Taylor; University of Illinois

1. What action is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced a 12-month finding on a petition to list the eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) and the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act and to designate critical habitat.  After careful review, the Service determined that listing the eastern small-footed bat is not warranted; however, listing the northern long-eared bat is warranted. Therefore, the Service is proposing to list the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species throughout its range.  We also determined that critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat is not determinable at this time.  The proposal to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered also opens a 60-day public comment to allow opportunity for agencies, groups and interested people to comment on the proposal and provide us with new information.

 

2.  Why is the Service proposing to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered?

White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease known to affect bats, is currently the predominant threat to the northern long-eared bat, especially throughout the Northeast where the species has declined by up to 99 percent from pre-white-nose syndrome levels at many hibernation sites.  White-nose syndrome has spread rapidly throughout the East and is currently spreading through the Midwest.  Although the disease has not yet spread throughout the northern long-eared bat’s entire range (white-nose syndrome is currently found in at least 22 of 39 states where the northern long-eared bat occurs), it continues to spread.  Experts expect that where it spreads, it will have the same impact as seen in the Northeast.  The current rate of spread has been rapid, spreading from the first documented occurrence in New York in February 2006, to 22 states and five Canadian provinces by September 2013. Prior to the emergence of white-nose syndrome, the northern long-eared bat was found in 39 states (including the District of Columbia), with higher abundance in the East and becoming less common as you move west.  

 

Other threats to the species include: wind energy development, habitat destruction or disturbance (e.g., vandalism to hibernacula, roost tree removal), climate change, and contaminants.  Although no significant population declines have been observed due to these threats, they may now be important factors affecting this bat’s ability to persist while experiencing dramatic declines caused by white-nose syndrome.

 

The Service and others are working to minimize bat mortality from wind turbines on several fronts.  We fund and conduct research to determine why bats are susceptible to turbines, how to operate turbines to minimize mortality and where important bird and bat migration routes are located.  The Service, State natural resource agencies, and wind energy industry are developing a Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan that will provide wind farms a mechanism to continue operating legally while minimizing and mitigating listed bat mortality.  Information about our work to address bat mortality from wind turbines can be found at www.fws.gov/midwest/wind.

 

3.  Why did the Service determine that listing the eastern small-footed bat is not warranted?

To date, white-nose syndrome does not appear to have caused a significant population decline in eastern small-footed bats.  Several factors may influence why eastern small-footed bats are less susceptible to the disease compared to other bats of the genus Myotis.  The first factor that may influence lower susceptibility of eastern small-footed bats to white-nose syndrome is that this bat species tends to enter caves or mines later (mid-November) and leave earlier (mid-March) compared to other Myotis bats.  Time spent outside of caves and mines means less time for the fungus to grow because environmental conditions like temperature and humidity are not the best for fungal growth.  Second, when eastern small-footed bats are present at caves and mines, they are most frequently observed at the entrances, where humidity is low and temperature fluctuations are high; also conditions not ideal for fungal growth.  Last, unlike some other gregarious bats (e.g., little brown bats), eastern small-footed bats frequently roost solitarily or deep within cracks, possibly further reducing their exposure to the fungus.  In conclusion, there are several factors that may help explain why eastern small-footed bats appear to be less susceptible to white-nose syndrome.  

 

4.  What are federal and state agencies doing to find the cause and a cure for white-nose syndrome?
An extensive network of state and federal agencies is working to investigate the cause, source and spread of bat deaths associated with white-nose syndrome, and to develop management strategies to minimize the impacts of white-nose syndrome.  Visit http://whitenosesyndrome.org/ to learn more.

 

The overall white-nose syndrome investigation has three primary focus areas: research, monitoring/management and outreach. In 2009 and 2010, the Service led a team of federal and state agencies and tribes in preparing a national white-nose syndrome management plan to address the threat to hibernating bats. This National Plan outlines actions necessary for state, federal and tribal coordination; provides an overall strategy for investigating the cause of white-nose syndrome; and a strategy for finding ways to manage it.  Find out more about the plan at http://whitenosesyndrome.org/national-plan/white-nose-syndrome-national-plan.

 

5.  What previous actions have been taken toward listing the northern long-eared bat?

On January 21, 2010, the Service received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity requesting that the northern long-eared bat be listed as threatened or endangered and that critical habitat be designated under the Act.  On June 29, 2011, the Service published in the Federal Register (76 FR 38095) our finding that the petition to list the northern long-eared bat presented substantial information indicating that the requested action may be warranted, and the Service then began a status review of the species.

 

The Service’s settlement agreement (multi-district litigation) with WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity stated that a 12-month finding for the northern long-eared bat is due to the Federal Register by September 30, 2013.  In addition, if listing is determined to be warranted, the Service will publish a proposed listing rule concurrent with the 12-month finding.

 

6.  What is the northern long-eared bat and where is it found?

The northern long-eared bat is a medium-sized bat, about 3 to 3.7 inches long but with a wingspan of 9 to 10 inches.  As its name suggests, it is distinguished by its long ears, particularly as compared to other bats in its genus, Myotis.  It eats insects and emerges at dusk to fly through the understory of forested hillsides and ridges feeding on moths, flies, leafhoppers, caddisflies, and beetles, which it catches while in flight using echolocation.  This bat also feeds by gleaning behavior, which means catching motionless insects from vegetation or the surface of water bodies. 

 

The northern long-eared bat is found across much of the eastern and north central United States and all Canadian provinces from the Atlantic coast west to the southern Northwest Territories and eastern British Columbia. The species’ range includes the following 39 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,  Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

 

Northern long-eared bats spend winter hibernating in caves and abandoned mines, collectively call hibernacula.  During summer, they roost alone or in small colonies underneath bark or in cavities or crevices of both live trees and snags (dead trees). 

 

7.  How would listing help conserve the northern long-eared bat?

Listing under the Endangered Species Act helps conserve species in several ways.  Listing focuses conservation planning and funding, raises awareness that can lead to additional opportunities and partners, and by regulation protects listed species from intentional and unintentional harm. 

 

The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to prepare a recovery plan for each listed species. A recovery plan identifies and prioritizes actions needed to conserve and recover a species.  Non-governmental agencies, universities, and other federal and state agencies often carry out conservation actions identified in recovery plans.

 

Federally listed threatened and endangered species are usually considered as priorities during land-use planning.

Listing protects species by prohibiting “take” under Section 9.  The take prohibition includes significant habitat modification or degradation that results in the direct killing or injury to listed animal species.  States may also have their own laws restricting activity that affect federally listed species.

 

In addition, Section 7 of the Act protects listed species by requiring that other Federal agencies “consult” with the Service to ensure that their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or adversely modify Critical Habitat.  Through this consultation, the Service works with the federal agency and advises on whether the actions would affect the species or critical habitat as well as ways to avoid those impacts.  Listed species often become priorities for grants and other funding because of the section 7(a)(1) requirement that all federal agencies use their authorities to carry out programs for the conservation of threatened and endangered species.   

 

8.  When will the final decision on listing be made?

A final decision must be made within 12 months of the date that the proposal to list was published.

 

9.  What can I do to help the northern long-eared bat?

Support conservation efforts and disease management efforts: Through our actions, people can play an important role in conservation efforts by observing recommendations and regulations designed to protect bat caves and mines where bats roost and hibernate.  Minimizing visits to and contact with roost and hibernation areas and avoiding movement of equipment and clothing among different areas, can help prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome.  Public use of and support for the national white-nose syndrome response plan is essential for the plan to be effective.  Visit www.whitenose.org for the decontamination protocols and the national plan.

 

Visit local parks, refuges, and sanctuaries:  While you enjoy these areas, your entrance fees and donations provide essential funds to manage and conserve habitat for plants and animals that rely on these lands.  Visiting parks and refuges also provide opportunities to learn more about wildlife in your area.

 

Avoid disturbing hibernating bats: For the protection of bats and their habitats, comply with all cave and mine closures and regulations.   If you are in an area without a cave and mine closure policy, follow all approved decontamination protocols.  Under no circumstances should clothing, footwear, or equipment used in a white-nose syndrome-affected state or region be used in a -state or region unaffected by the disease.  Visit http://whitenosesyndrome.org for decontamination protocols and the national plan.

 

Install a Bat Box:  Like most eastern bats, the northern long-eared bat moves to trees for the summer, often using dead and dying trees.  When safe to do so, leave these standing, but if dead or dying trees are not available, bats may use bat boxes as replacement roost sites.  Bat boxes are especially needed from April to August when females look for safe and quiet places to give birth and raise their pups.

 

Support Sustainability:  Support efforts in your community, county and state to ensure that sustainability is a development goal.  Sustainable living helps alleviate some of the pressures and threats on imperiled species, like the northern long-eared bat, and their habitat.  

 

Spread the Word: Understanding the important ecological role that bats play is a key to conserving the northern long-eared and other bats. Helping people learn more about the northern long bat and other endangered species can lead to more effective recovery efforts.

 

Join and Volunteer: Join a conservation group; many have local chapters. Volunteer at a local nature center, zoo, or national wildlife refuge.  Many state natural resource agencies benefit greatly from citizen involvement in monitoring wildlife.  Check your state agency websites and get involved in citizen science efforts in your area.

 

10.  How do I comment on the proposed rule?

You may submit comments by one of the following methods:

 

(1) Electronically: In the Keyword box, enter FWS–R5–ES–2011–0024, which is the docket number for the rulemaking.  Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document.  You may submit a comment by clicking on “Send a Comment or Submission.”  If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with our comment review procedures.  If you attach your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word.  If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel; or

 

(2) By hard copy:  Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: 

 

Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R5–ES–2011–0024

Division of Policy and Directives Management

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM

Arlington, VA 22203

 

We will accept and consider comments and information we receive or postmarked on or before December 2, 2013.  We must receive comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. 

 

Please send your comments only by the methods described above.  We will not accept verbal comments left on phone voicemail or comments sent to other postal or email addresses.  The Service will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov.  This generally means that the Service will post any personal information you provide.

 

11.  Is there specific information that the Service would like to receive?
Any final action we take on this proposed rule must be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and must be as accurate and as effective as possible.  Therefore, we are asking for comments or information from other concerned Federal and State agencies, the scientific community, or any other interested party.  In particular, we are asking for information on:

 

(1) the species’ biology, range, and population trends;

 

(2) any information on the biological or ecological requirements of the species, and ongoing conservation measures for the species and its habitat;

 

(3) biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any threats (or lack thereof) to this species and regulations that may be addressing those threats;

 

(4) current or planned activities in the areas occupied by the species and possible impacts of these activities on the species;

 

(5) additional information regarding the threats to the species under the five listing factors; and,

 

(6) information to help inform a critical habitat designation. 

 

12.  Where can I learn more about the northern long-eared bat and the proposal to list it as endangered?
Information is online at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered or you may contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Green Bay Field Office at:

 

Pete Fasbender, Field Supervisor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
2661 Scott Tower Drive
Green Bay, WI 54229
Telephone: (920) 866-1717
FAX: (920) 866-1710

 

If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

 


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Last updated: July 16, 2014