Two bat species are being proposed for the Maine endangered species list because they’ve been decimated by white nose syndrome, state officials said.
Recent cave counts of the Northern long-eared bat and little brown bat show nearly 90 percent declines, officials said Wednesday. 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. It has killed more than 5.5 million bats.
Rapid bat die-offs have occurred in Maine caves recently because of the disease, said Charlie Todd, the endangered species coordinator for the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.
“These are the kind of declines that sometimes take decades to fix,” Todd said. “So we’re in trouble.”
Maine lawmakers would have to approve the addition to the endangered list. The last time that happened was in 2007. The IF&W list includes 45 endangered or threatened animals, only two of which are mammals: the New England cottontail and the northern bog lemming.
State officials will host two public hearings about the proposal Aug. 4 in Portland and Aug. 5 in Farmington.