NLE bat, ©Steven Thomas/NPS

A Bat on the Brink

The northern long-eared bat needs federal protection before it disappears completely

Remember those summer nights, sitting outside, watching bats zip across the sky, feasting on insects? I barely can, and instead, I’m watching my friends get eaten alive by mosquitos. Bats are quickly disappearing from the eastern United States, plagued by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, which infects the caves where bats hibernate. White-nose syndrome has already killed nearly seven million bats in the past eight years. Although bat numbers plummet as the disease spreads westwards, scientists have yet to find a treatment or cure for this deadly plague. The northern long-eared bat is one of the worst-affected bat species, and has declined by 99% in its core range since the onset of white nose-syndrome. The disease has already invaded 25 states and five Canadian provinces where the bat is found. The species has even suffered local extinctions in its northeastern range. As the northern long-eared bat populations are decimated, they are even more vulnerable to climate change and human activities that degrade bat habitat, such as oil and gas development and logging.NLE bat, ©Al Hicks/NYDEC

Despite these overwhelming and drastic threats to the species, the Fish and Wildlife Service recently decided to delay federal protections for the northern long-eared bat for another six months. Last October, the agency proposed listing the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but political pressure from logging and oil and gas interests succeeded in getting the Service to delay making a decision. The agency claimed it received conflicting reports on how complete or accurate the science behind its proposed listing decision is, but the science is clear that the drastic population declines are real.

We can’t afford to allow the northern long-eared bat and other bat species to disappear. Bats provide invaluable ecological services to humans. A 2010 study estimated that bats provide billions of dollars’ worth of pest-control services to U.S. agriculture every year by eating insects. So far, conservation at the state level has not prevented the northern long-eared bat from sliding towards extinction; only federal protections and a coordinated federal effort have any hope of turning the tide.

The Service has re-opened the comment period on its decision until the end of August. In response, our legal team at Defenders has partnered with our conservation allies to urge Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and USFWS Director Dan Ashe to move quickly to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered, providing it the federal protection it needs to stave off extinction. We’re asking all our members and supporters to do the same so we can help save these bats before it’s too late .

Anne Russell Gregory is the Conservation Law Coordinator at Defenders of Wildlife

Show your support for northern long-eared bats!
Tell USFWS to protect species under the ESA.

7 Responses to “A Bat on the Brink”

  1. Linda francipane

    Why do we have to beg our government to save our planet, animals, and inevitably our FUTURE!?!?

  2. Maggie Keefe

    It is simple. Because they don’t care about enough about it to see it as an important issue. They cannot think outside the box when it comes to environmental issues. They only look at the effect of trying to save our endangered species as a thorn in the side of the way of progress and big industry, pipelines, off shore drilling. They don’t at the issues from the opposite side of the looking glass. The effect the above mentioned have on our environment, and as I said they don’t care. Saving wildlife doesn’t make them money. They see it as an unnecessary expense. They aren’t smart enough to realize that by letting the species die out they are drastically altering the eco-system. With each species that is allowed to perish at the expense of progress, we come closer to destroying our own chances at survival in a planet off balance.That will die out without the existence of these species. Such will lead to the demise of the human race.

    • Bryce


      Please take the time to research the habitat requirements for the Kirtlands Warbler which was recently taken off of the Endangered Species List. Also look up habitat requirements for roughed grouse, white tailed deer and snowshoe hare. The habitat for these animals is created by clearcutting aspen and jack pine forests. You cannot do a clearcut without a timber industry. Restricting timber harvest operations to the winter months will put me out of business, as well most of the timber industry in our region. That will eliminate the ability to create habitat for a number of endangered species such as the Hill’s Thistle, Karner Blue Butterfly, Sand Hill Cranes ect. Leaving some dead trees and snags for wildlife is no problem, we do that all of the time.

      Timber harvesting is a renewable and sustainable resource if done correctly. I have no interest in exhausting the resources that sustain me.

      Bryce Metcalfe
      Metcalfe Forestry LLC

  3. Michael Zahn

    How will stopping logging help save the bat? Where is the specific causal link between logging and killing this species? If we are to be stewards of this planet, we cannot be mere spectators. I think environmentally responsible logging practices are compatible with protecting the environment. I believe that listing the northern long eared bat as an endangered species is too drastic and will not solve the problem the species faces.

  4. Christine

    Michael is correct as well as Maggie. The truth is the disease that is killing off the bats came from a tourist (a spelunker) who brought it from a cave in Europe. It will take research to fight this thing, if we have a chance of saving the North American Bats. I suggest everyone build a bat house!

  5. William Gentry

    I have a family of Bats living under my deck. I would like to consider a bat house. So they could have a place less intrusive by human’s. Can you direct me to a web sit that has bat house plans?

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