The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a six-month delay on whether or not to list the Northern Long-eared Bat as endangered. The delay is so scientists can examine the impact of White-Nose Syndrome.
White-Nose Syndrome is an infectious disease responsible for unprecedented mortality in bats. It's thought to be spread via a cold-loving fungus that came into Connecticut in 2008. Northern long-eared bats are one of eight species of bats in the state and they belong to a genus called "myotsis" or mouse-eared bats.
"These little guys depend on mosquitoes for their prey. They're a voracious predator of mosquitoes, but they're also the species that are being hit the worst by White-Nose Syndrome," said Geraldine Griswold, a bat rehabilitator. "They're such a delicate little animal. They require a lot more warmth in the cave in winter -- they cluster together like a furry little carpet."
And when bats cluster, the fungus spreads fast. "I always say to people if you buy a little container of raspberries ... you know that if one of those raspberries is moldy, the next day a whole mess are going to be moldy as well," Griswold said.
While the exact process of how White-Nose Syndrome leads to death is uncertain, it's believed that immune function in hibernating bats is weakened, which compromises their ability to fight the infection. Last October, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the northern long-eared bat as endangered. They said White-Nose Syndrome had spread to 22 states and was responsible for killing at least 5.7 million bats.
In Connecticut, since 2011, there have only been a dozen confirmed observations of hibernating Northern Long-eared Bats. Those numbers were in the hundreds before White-Nose Syndrome came to the state. A final decision on whether not to label the bats as endangered will be made no later than April of next year.