US Fish and Wildlife Service initiates Status Review for two bat species

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is conducting a Status Review of the eastern small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii) and the northern long-eared myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) to determine whether these species should be listed as federally endangered or threatened (Federal Register Vol. 76, No. 125, pp. 38095- 38106; June 29, 2011).

The Service is soliciting pertinent scientific and commercial data and other information. Comments are due on August 29, 2011.

Both species forage in forests, overwinter in hibernacula that include caves and abandoned mines, and both are susceptible to white nose syndrome, a disease that has recently killed thousands of bats in several species. The disease, which was first discovered in the northeastern US in 2006, is caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans which grows on the muzzles, wings, and ears of infected bats when they are hibernating in caves and mines (http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/). The fungus evidently rouses infected bats from their hibernation torpor, causing them to expend energy during a season during which insect prey is not readily available.

The decision by the Service to conduct a Status Review was made in response to a listing petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity. Although white-nose syndrome is clearly a documented source of mortality for the eastern small-footed and northern long-eared myotis, the petition alleges that many other factors, including habitat destruction or modification, have contributed to declines of the two species. Habitat-related factors identified by the petitioners include agricultural and residential development; logging; oil, gas, and mineral development; wind energy development; and mine closures.

The petition asserts that logging affects the two species through “direct loss of roosting and foraging habitats and changes in forest structure and insect distribution and abundance” and that “the most commonly employed
silvicultural practices are incompatible with bat habitat conservation.” The petition also argues that in industrial forests under typical management practices, large-diameter snags and older forests may be absent or rare. The northern long-eared bat, in particular, has been observed roosting in older/larger trees.

Dr. Ben Wigley is preparing NCASI’s technical comments on the Status Review.  The comments will summarize relevant scientific information, including results of several NCASI research projects across the nation investigating habitat relationships of bats in managed forest landscapes.  

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