USFWS trying hard to protect bat population

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a rule to place the northern long-eared bat under the Endangered Species Act because of the threat of the fatal white-nose syndrome, which has killed millions of bat in the United States.

The USFWS announced the action on April 1, which is effective May 4, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register of the agency's final determination. 

"€œIn making this decision, we reviewed the best available scientific information on the northern long-eared bat, including information gathered from more than 100,000 public comments,"€ said USFWS Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius in a news release. "€œWe are listing this species because a disease –€“ white-nose syndrome –€“ is spreading and decimating its populations. We designed the . . . rule to provide appropriate protection within the area where the disease occurs for the remaining individuals during their most sensitive life stages, but to otherwise eliminate unnecessary regulation."€

"€œBats are a critical component of our nation'€™s ecology and economy, maintaining a fragile insect predator-prey balance; we lose them at our peril,"€ said USFWS Service Director Dan Ashe in a news release. "Without bats, insect populations can rise dramatically, with the potential for devastating losses for our crop farmers."

Populations of the northern long-eared bat have declined dramatically in the eastern part of the bat'€™s range due primarily to white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of cave-hibernating bats of many species in the United States and Canada, according to the news release.

In 2011, the Ohio Division of Wildlife (Ohio Outdoor News, April 14, 2011) confirmed the first case of white nose syndrome found on Indiana bats, a protected species, roosting in an abandoned Lawrence County limestone mine in southern Ohio.

Since the first discovery of the disease in Ohio, WNS has been found in 15 additional Ohio counties including five in 2012 (Cuyahoga, Geauga, Summit, Portage and Preble)  and 10 (Ashland, Athens, Clinton, Jefferson, Madison, Medina, Union,  Wayne, Warren, and Sandusky)  in 2013.

The fungus geomyces (pronounced GEO-MY-CEES) destructans was first documented on hibernating bats in Howes Cave near Albany, N.Y., in the winter of 2006 and nearby caves in 2007. Scientists consider the strange disease, which is distinctive by a tell-tale white fuzzy growth on the bat's muzzle, ears and wings, responsible for the most dramatic decline in North American wildlife in a century, according to the USFWS.

The USFWS is seeking public comment on its proposed rule until July 1, 2015, by one of the following methods:

Electronically:  Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R5–ES–2011–0024, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. You may submit a comment by clicking on "€œComment Now!"€

Buy 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.

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