A disease that has killed over 6 million bats since 2007 is putting one of Georgia’s most populous bats in danger of extinction. The US Fish and Wildlife service says White Nose Syndrome is threatening bats. The agency wants to declare the northern long eared bat an endangered species. Tuesday the agency will host the first of three webcasts to provide more information about the proposal.
Wildlife Biologist Trina Morris says bats are important because Georgia is home to 16 species that exclusively eat insects.
“So obviously a loss in bat numbers is going to mean increased insect numbers. It’s also going to mean an imbalance in the ecosystem. Bats eat a lot of insects and they provide food for other animals that eat them and they also provide important nutrients into the cave system.”
Bats eat their own weight in insects nightly.
Morris also acknowledges the proposal to list the northern long eared bat as an endangered species is controversial because of the difficulty of gathering accurate numbers on the bat population.
“Numbers are very hard because we know northern long eared bats do hibernate in caves and we see them in caves but we cannot match the numbers we catch on the landscape to anyplace that they are in the winter. So we know we’re missing something with that species.”
Research into treatment of the disease is still in the beginning stages but there are new research options that “show hope” according to Morris. Initial testing for treatments for White Nose Syndrome in Georgia began last winter. Wildlife officials say there could be some solutions as soon as next winter ends. White Nose Syndrome first arrived in Georgia in February 2013.
For more information on the northern long eared bat endangered species proposal, watch the US Fish and Wildlife webcast at
To listen and ask questions call 1-800-369-1692 and enter 2549152#. Sessions are on Tuesday, August 19, at 1 p.m., Wednesday, August 20, at 4 p.m. or Thursday, August 21, at 7 p.m. Eastern.