In the darkness of a damp cave, a pair of fuzzy ears poke from a crevice in the ceiling. They belong to the northern long-eared bat, one of the smallest cave dwellers that ranges throughout the central and eastern United States.
These dark brown bats with tawny-colored undersides are only about three- to four-inches long. But their wingspans can reach up to 10 inches, giving them increased maneuverability during slow flies as they feast on caddisflies, beetles, moths, leafhoppers and flies.
Unfortunately, the deadly and rapidly spreading fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome, which infects cave-dwelling bats during hibernation, has decimated the population of these important natural pest patrols by an alarming 99 percent.
The other serious threat to the northern long-eared bat is habitat loss and degradation. During the warmer months these bats live in large forested areas—or what’s left of them. Logging, highway construction, commercial development and surface mining continue to decimate this important bat habitat.
In the face of these threats and such a dramatic decline, we cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to this bat’s plight. We need to act fast before this once-abundant species vanishes forever.
Making a Difference
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) originally proposed listing the northern long-eared bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as “endangered.” Bowing to political pressure from timber, oil and gas industries, FWS instead listed the bats as “threatened,” exempting most habitat-destroying activities from regulation and allowing incidental killing of bats by industry.
Defenders sued FWS in 2016 for denying the northern long-eared bat full ESA protection and is awaiting the decision.
Find out more at defenders.org/bats.