OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is delaying listing the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species.
The northern long-eared bat was reclassified from threatened to endangered in Nov. 2022 and was set to go into effect Jan. 31, 2023.
The 60-day extension pushes the effective date to March 31, 2023.
USFWS officials say the extension will allow the Service to finalize conservation tools and guidance to ‘avoid confusion and disruption for landowners, federal partners and industry with projects occurring in suitable habitats within the northern long-eared bat’s 37-state range,’ including Oklahoma.
The northern long-eared bat faces extinction due to the spread of white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease affecting hibernating bats across North America.
White-nose syndrome is caused by the growth of fungus on bats’ muzzles and wings. Impacted bats wake up more frequently during the winter months, which often leads to dehydration and starvation before spring arrives.
“White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. “The Service is deeply committed to working with partners on a balanced approach that reduces the impacts of disease and protects the survivors to recover northern long-eared bat populations.”
White-nose syndrome has spread across nearly 80% of the species’ entire range since it was listed as threatened in 2015.
Research found that white-nose syndrome is expected to affect 100% of the bat’s range by 2025.