FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2002
A recent story in Georgia media featured misleading information concerning the Endangered Species Act. News stories suggested bats found within an apartment in the City of Griffin were protected by the Endangered Species Act and could not be disturbed. A repeated assumption was that no avenue was available to ease health concerns of the apartments human inhabitants.
The Endangered Species Act does not apply to the species of bat present in the apartment. Sandy Tucker, Field Supervisor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Ecological Services office in Athens, Georgia, states that only two species of bats protected by the Endangered Species Act are found in Georgiathe gray bat and Indiana bat. Both are dwellers of cave-like or upland forest habitats and neither is common to Griffin and surrounding Spaulding County.
Of the twenty or so bat species found in Georgia, those normally occupying human structures are the little brown, big brown or the Mexican free-tailed bat. The species occupying the housing authority apartment in Griffin are currently identified as brown bats and are not fruit bats as listed in news reports. Fruit bats are not found in the southeastern United States and, in fact, are located in Mexico, South America and other more tropical climates. The only two fruit bats protected by the Endangered Species Act can be found on islands in the Pacific Ocean.
While the Federal Endangered Species Act does not apply in this story, Georgia state law does protect all species of bats in Georgia, especially during the breeding season of May 1st through August 15th. However, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will allow removal of bats under a case-by-case basis. State officials are in the process of issuing a permit to a licensed trapper allowing removal of the brown bats from the apartment in Griffin.
Bats are an important part of the natural environment, eating each day as much as half their weight in mosquitoes, beetles, moths and other insects. Bats are important not just for controlling insects in backyards and on farms, but also in dispersing seeds and pollinating plants valuable to human needs. Unfortunately, populations of certain bat species are declining due to loss of habitat, pesticides and other human induced causes.
Legislation such as the Endangered Species Act is important for protecting declining species, but Tucker says, Protection of animals over people is not the purpose of the Endangered Species Act or the Fish and Wildlife Service. Weve been given a trust to preserve these animals as a resource for the American people.
Tucker continues, stating; For species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act, there are permitting processes that gives flexibility when dealing with human health and other emergencies.
Melissa Cummins, Public Affairs Office 770 918-6400
Wildlife Resources Division Special Permits Office 770 761-3044
Doug Hall, Wildlife Services (Bat Removal) 706 546-2020
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Atlanta, GA 30345
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