Kentucky Residents Sentenced After Pleading Guilty to Killing Endangered Bats
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2010
Tom MacKenzie, FWS, 404-679-7291
Bob Snow, Special Agent, 502-582-5989 ext 29
One Kentucky man will spend the next eight months in jail, and another will receive three years probation for killing more than 100 endangered Indiana bats in Laurel Cave, Ky.
Lonnie W. Skaggs, Olive Hill, Ky., and Kaleb D. Carpenter, Grayson, Ky., today were sentenced in U.S. District Court, Ashland, Ky., for violations of the Federal Endangered Species Act. U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins sentenced Skaggs to two eight-month Federal prison sentences, to run concurrently, for a total of eight months. Carpenter received three years probation.
The investigation began in October 2007 when Carter Caves State Park employees documented that visitors had entered Laurel Cave on two occasions and had killed a total of 105 Indiana Bats; a federally-listed endangered species. It was later revealed that Carpenter and Skaggs had killed the bats with flashlights and rocks; and had crushed bats they knocked from the air and from the cave walls with their feet.
Following the initial incident where 23 bats were killed, Skaggs returned to the cave a few nights later with another Olive Hill resident and killed 82 more.
“This senseless act of killing dozens of endangered Indiana bats cannot be tolerated,” said James Gale, Special Agent-in-Charge for the Service’s Southeast Region. “These bats are endangered and this reckless behavior is particularly grievous considering the current health of its population and our work with partners to recover the species.”
The Service designated the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) as in danger of extinction in 1967, prior to the enactment of the Endangered Species Act.
In the fall Indiana bats migrate to caves, called hibernacula, and by mid-November enter hibernation where they remain for the duration of winter. In the summer, female Indiana bats form maternity colonies in roost trees, where they give birth to a single “pup,” and raise their young. Roost trees generally consist of snags, which are dead or dying trees with exfoliating bark, or living trees with peeling bark. Bats are the only major predators of night-flying insects.
In just one hour a single bat can eat between 600 and 1,000 insect pests.
The Indiana bat population has declined since it was listed as an endangered species in 1967, and was estimated by the Service in 2009 to be about 391,163 individuals.
The case was investigated by the Service, Kentucky State Parks, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources; and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Roger West and Rob Duncan.
A significant challenge bats face is White Nose Syndrome (WNS), which has been decimating bat populations in the East.
WNS was first discovered near Albany, N.Y. in February 2006. It has been confirmed or suspected in 11 states in the Eastern United States from New Hampshire to Tennessee. Since 2006, biologists across the Northeast have reported as much as a 100 percent decline in hibernating bats in affected caves.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requests that cavers do not enter caves in all WNS affected states and adjoining states. The Service request cavers refrain from caving anywhere during the hibernation period (September – May) to minimize disturbance and mortality to bats.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Visit the Service’s websites at http://www.fws.gov/ or http://www.fws.gov/southeast.