The Florida bonneted bat, battered by disappearing habitat and threatened by climate change, is being formally listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which proposed the listing a year ago, said the designation will be effective November 1, 2013. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers this rare bat to be “Critically Endangered.”
The species (Eumops floridanus) is documented in only a handful of roosts in seven Florida counties. The total population is believed to number only a few hundred. Formerly known as Wagner’s mastiff bat, this is the largest of the state’s bats, with a wingspan of up to 18¾ inches. Florida bonneted bats do not migrate and roost in tree hollows, buildings, under Spanish-tile roosts, in dead palm fronds and bat houses. Fast and agile, they hunt a variety of night-flying insects over open spaces.
The USFWS also formally recommended Endangered Species listing for the northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis), which has been decimated by White-nose Syndrome. The proposal on October 1, 2013, begins a year of pubic comment and scientific investigation before a final decision will be announced.
The Florida bonneted bat is the first bat to join the Endangered Species List in 25 years. The lesser long-nosed and Mexican long-nosed bats were both listed in 1988. Endangered bat species also include the gray and Indiana myotis, along with three subspecies: the Ozark and Virginia big-eared bats and the Hawaiian hoary bat.
In addition to “small population size, restricted range, few colonies, slow reproduction, low fecundity and relative isolation,” the USFWS says Florida bonneted bats face the risk of extinction because of continuing loss and degradation of roosting and foraging habitat due to human activities. The agency said it will propose the designation of a “critical habitat” for the species in the near future.
And it said the impact of climate change, “including sea-level rise and coastal squeeze, are expected to become severe in the future and result in additional habitat losses.”
One of the few bright spots for this beleaguered bat is that White-nose Syndrome is not considered a threat (at least for now) because these bats do not hibernate and inhabit a very warm climate.