The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Endangered Species Act protection for the Florida bonneted bat today — the largest, rarest bat in the state. The Service delayed proposing lifesaving critical habitat for the species.
“Florida is lucky to have over a dozen species of bats that provide valuable ecosystem services like pest control,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Center attorney based in Florida. “The sad irony with the Florida bonneted bat is that we caused its near extinction by exposing it to harmful pesticides. Now this unique bat is severely threatened by climate change.”
Open fresh water and wetlands provide prime foraging habitat for Florida bonneted bats, while trees and human-made structures are used for roosting. But the bats’ habitat is projected to experience sea-level rise of as much as 3 to 6 feet within this century, meaning that nine of the 11 roost site locations will be either fully or partially inundated. With even one foot of sea-level rise, four roost sites would be largely or completed inundated.
“We once thought these bats had gone extinct. We now have a second chance to help them recover and restore South Florida’s natural balance,” said Lopez. “We absolutely must protect habitat for these bats if they’re going to survive, including inland habitat to help them escape rising seas.”
The decision is a result of a historic settlement agreement signed with the Center for Biological Diversity that requires expedited decisions on protection for 757 plants and animals around the country.