The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving to reclassify northern long-eared bats as endangered after a fungus disease known as white-nose syndrome caused affected populations to decline anywhere from 97 to 100 percent, according to the agency. USFWS is planning a virtual public informational meeting about the proposed reclassification on April 7.
Elizabeth Buckles is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and an expert on emerging diseases in avian and non-domestic animals. Buckles says the reclassification can result in more resources dedicated to preserving the bat’s population, but it is a sad milestone for scientists who have been monitoring the outbreak.
“The placement of the long-eared bat on the endangered species list is profoundly sad for those of us who have watched this outbreak from the beginning. Despite our best efforts, White Nose Syndrome continues to decimate our bat populations. Given the worldwide focus on SARS CoV-2 it is easy to forget that the ongoing threats to our wild animals remain very real.
“The one bright spot is that by listing the species as endangered, more resources may be directed at preserving the population, as proper implementation of the Endangered Species Act has resulted in some notable conservation successes.
“It is important for all of us to remain vigilant, to ensure that the plight of North American bats is not forgotten and that the legal protections afforded at risk populations are not weakened in the name of political gain. Governmental and non-governmental agencies must remain funded and staffed by dedicated individuals focused on protecting our natural resources.”