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Northern Long Eared Bat

Northern Long-Eared Bat

Today, May 19, is Endangered Species Day, a day when many environmental organizations and government agencies recognize conservation efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats.

The MassDOT Highway Division works hard to ensure compliance with State and Federal endangered species regulations to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to rare and endangered species.  In April of 2015 the northern long-eared bat became federally listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, due to their precipitous population decline caused by White-nose Syndrome.  White-nose Syndrome, named as such because of the resultant mold that grows on the bats’ nose, is a disease that kills bats during the winter while they hibernate in caves and mines, called “hibernacula.”  Not only are bats important ecologically, but they also have health and economic benefits because they reduce populations of mosquitoes and crop pests such as moths and beetles.

Through the environmental review process, the Highway Division ensures that highway projects do not adversely affect the priority habitats of northern long-eared bats, such as forested habitat at hibernacula, and maternity roosting trees where adult females raise their young pups.  These project reviews are coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to ensure compliance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.  MassDOT and other state DOTs are collecting distribution data for the northern long-eared bat, which informs the project review process while also contributing to long-term conservation planning by the USFWS and state wildlife agencies, such as the Massachusetts Division of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife).

Research by the USFWS and other scientists is ongoing in an attempt to counter the threat of White-nose Syndrome, and recent research has successfully cured northern longed-eared bats of the disease by using a common bacteria to prevent the mold of White-nose Syndrome from growing on bats.  Although the future of the northern long-eared bat is still uncertain, there is optimism through microbiological research, and through the targeted stewardship and collaboration between regulatory agencies and project proponents, such as USFWS, MassWildlife and MassDOT.

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