WASHINGTON (CN) - "The Florida bonneted bat is in danger of becoming extinct in the foreseeable future," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement on its proposal to list the bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
"The 2011 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species lists the species as 'critically endangered' because 'its population size is estimated to number fewer than 250 mature individuals, with no subpopulation greater than 50 individuals, and it is experiencing a continuing decline,'" said the proposed regulation.
The bonneted bat, named for its large broad ears, which are joined at the center of the head and project over the eyes, are "fast-hawking" bats, meaning they rely on speed and open spaces to catch insects. The species is also associated with forested areas for roosting, according to the proposal. The agency has limited information on roosting needs, the action noted.
The largest bat in Florida, up to 6.5 inches in length, the bonneted bat is threatened by habitat loss from human development and agriculture, and threats from pesticide use, climate change and climate events such as prolonged cold spells and hurricanes, intolerance from humans, and its own low reproductive rate and extremely restricted range, the action said.
"In November 2009 the Service identified the bat as a candidate species, finding that it was imminently threatened but precluded from federal protection due to other agency priorities," the Center for Biological Diversity said in its statement. The recent USFWS proposal is the result of a 2011 settlement between the federal agency and environmental groups to expedite decisions on 757 plants and animals around the country, the CBD said.
Little is known about these elusive bats, and the USFWS particularly needs information regarding "location of natural roosts, roosting and foraging habitat preferences, dietary requirements, and foraging distance" to be able to propose critical habitat. Currently, all known natural roosts are in artificial bat houses, the action noted.