Target: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Goal: Save the eastern small-footed bat from the devastating effects of white-nose syndrome.
A deadly fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome has killed off an estimated 5.5. million bats in the United States and Canada. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has considered listing the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species, which would help to recuperate population numbers. Sadly, the same agency has decided that the eastern small-footed bat does not warrant the same protection, even though the disease has caused a 12 percent decline in its population. Urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the eastern small-footed bat as an endangered species as well.
Because white-nose syndrome is a rapid spreading illness with no known treatments, it is important to act now to save bat species before the infection spreads to the point that rehabilitation efforts are impossible. The disease has a 95% mortality rate, and researchers do not know how to prevent transmission. Some studies suggest that the fungus may respond to basic anti-fungal treatments, but locating and treating thousands of hibernating bats remains an obvious hurdle.
Clearly, much more research must be done on this damaging disease to prevent our bat species from dying out completely.
What researchers do know is how extensive the disease will become if not combated now. White-nose syndrome attacks hibernating bats and, because these small creatures store up just enough fat to stay healthy and full for their winter sleep, any time they wake it is a threat to their survival. Waking causes an increase in body temperature and requires more energy than is used while hibernating. Because the fungus causes such frequent interruptions, infected bats run out of energy stores faster than they otherwise would. They must either come out of hibernation early, or starve to death.
In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians recognized this looming threat and petitioned to have both the northern and eastern bats listed as endangered species.
Now, the fungal disease has almost killed off northern long-eared bat populations, and it can undoubtedly wreak havoc on eastern small-footed bat numbers in the same way. It would be wise for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take preventative measures before we are forced to rehabilitate dwindling numbers of all our bat species, which is much more difficult and costly. White-nose syndrome endangers our bats, and action must be taken immediately.
Urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the eastern small-footed bat as an endangered species.
Dear U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
In 2010, in response to the threat of white-nose syndrome, many citizens urged that the northern long-eared bat and the eastern small-footed bat be placed on the endangered species list, for defense against further declines. Today, the northern long-eared bat is so scarce that your organization has decided it finally warrants such protection. While I thank you for your efforts in protecting this bat from the devastating effects of white-nose syndrome, it is entirely possible that the eastern small-footed bat will suffer a similar fate if left unprotected.
There is no reason to wait. White-nose syndrome is a rapidly spreading disease with a high mortality rate and no known cure. It is only a matter of time before the eastern small-footed bat is nearly killed off like its fellow bat species. While a listing will not prevent the infection from attacking our bats, it can help protect the species. I urge you to fight for the safety of all bats that are presently endangered by this vicious fungal disease.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Evgeniy Yakhontov via Wikimedia Commons