PORTLAND — Two bat species are being proposed for the Maine endangered species list since they’ve been decimated by white nose syndrome, state officials said Wednesday.
Officials said that cave counts of the northern long-eared bat and little brown bat show nearly 90 percent declines. A third species, the eastern small-footed bat, has also declined, though not as much, and will be proposed for the state’s threatened species list.
White nose syndrome was first discovered about eight years ago in New York and has since been confirmed in at least half the states in the country. The disease, caused by a fungus, turns muzzles of sickened bats white and interrupts hibernation, which robs them of energy and stored fat.
Charlie Todd, endangered species coordinator for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, said rapid bat die-offs have occurred in Maine caves recently because of the disease. He said it’s unclear what kind of protections the state can propose, but adding the species to the endangered list would be a start.
“These are the kind of declines that sometimes take decades to fix so we’re in trouble,” Todd said.
Maine lawmakers would have to approve the addition to the endangered list. The last time that happened was in 2007.
The northern long-eared bat lives throughout the state except extreme northern Maine; the eastern small-footed bat is found mostly in coastal Maine. The little brown bat lives throughout the state. Eight bat species live in Maine.