In April, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the northern long-eared bat as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to impacts from an untreatable disease called white-nose syndrome. This week, FWS finalized a rule that lists 98 Iowa counties as a critical habitat for the northern long-eared bat. A county is listed as a critical habitat if it is within 150 miles of a county with positive white-nose syndrome. Here is a map of the counties affected.

The ESA prohibits any action that causes a “taking” of any listed species. “Take” is defined by the ESA as harass, harm, pursue, hunt, or wound any threatened species. Under the final rule, activities other than tree removal are allowed as long as they do not result in the incidental take of a northern long-eared bat. Before removing trees, it is good practice to determine whether a bat roost tree is located within 150 feet or if the tree is located within a quarter mile of where the bats hibernate.

 The FWS press release states, “In areas of the country impacted by white-nose syndrome, incidental take is prohibited if it occurs within a hibernation site for the northern long-eared bat. It is also prohibited if it results from tree removal activities within a quarter-mile of a hibernaculum or from activities that cut down or destroy known occupied maternity roost trees, or any other trees within 150 feet of that maternity roost tree, during the pup-rearing season (June 1 through July 31). Occupied roost trees may be removed when necessary to address a direct threat to human life and property. In other cases, a permit for incidental take may be needed.” Incidental take permits are subject to certain requirements, including the preparation of a habitat conservation plan.

The rule exempts the purposeful take of northern long-eared bats related to removing the species from human structures (including houses, barns, pavilions, sheds and cabins), as long as the actions comply with state regulation.

The final rule can be found here.

Iowa DNR’s current inventory of sitings of the northern long-eared bat can be found here