Tricolored bat, © Gary Peeples/USFWS

Going to Bat for a Species on the Brink

Today, we are petitioning to protect tricolored bats under the Endangered Species Act – before it’s too late.

Chances are you have never seen a tricolored bat, or if you have, you didn’t even know it. These bats are so small, and have such a fluttery flight pattern, that people often mistake them for moths.

Tricolored bat, © Ann Froschauer/USFWSAlso known as the eastern pipistrelle, the tricolored bat gets its name from its unique coloring. Its hair is “tricolored”: black at the base, yellow in the middle, and brown at the tip. Weighing between 4 and 8 grams, and measuring just 77 to 89 millimeters from head to tail, the tricolored bat is one of the smallest North American bats.

Although this tiny bat may not often be seen, every living thing in an ecosystem can feel its impact. As an insect-eater, it is an incredible source of pest control. In fact, one tricolored bat can eat up to 25% of its body weight in insects in just 30 minutes!

Tragically, the tricolored bat is also one of the species most dramatically affected by the spread of white-nose syndrome (WNS), the fungal disease that has devastated North American hibernating bat populations in recent years. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), since WNS was first discovered in upstate New York in 2006, the disease has killed an estimated 5.7 to 6.7 million bats. Historically the tricolored bat was one of the most common bat species in the eastern forests of North America. But its population is in drastic decline, and the bat has almost entirely disappeared from several states in its historic range. WNS is spreading rapidly, and is now present in 28 states and 5 Canadian provinces, overlapping with most of the tricolored bat’s range. And although many experts are hard at work, scientists have yet to determine how to stop the rapid spread of this deadly fungus.

Tricolored bat with WNS, © Pete PattavinaWNS strikes bats by damaging their skin and wings, often killing them directly or waking them from hibernation before food is available. The bats then waste their crucial fat reserves and starve to death. The tricolored bat is particularly vulnerable to WNS for two reasons. First, these bats hibernate in the deepest part of caves, where temperatures and humidity are highest – ideal conditions for the WNS fungus to thrive. And second, these bats hibernate for a long time – longer than most other bats in the species’ range. This long hibernation period increases the tricolored bats’ exposure to the pathogenic fungus. Biologists report that the tricolored bat has one of the highest documented mortality rates of all bats affected by white-nose syndrome: up to 98 percent in the northeastern United States. To make matters worse, the bats reproduce slowly, so when populations decline, it can take a very long time to build them back up again.

Unfortunately, tricolored bats face more threats than just WNS. Like many bat species, they also have to contend with human disturbance at hibernation and roost sites, habitat loss, pesticides, poorly-placed wind turbines, and climate change. Together with white-nose syndrome, these threats are pushing tricolored bats to the brink of extinction.

It’s clear that without immediate action, we could lose tricolored bats forever. So we’re taking the best step we can to keep this species on the map.

Today, we joined the Center for Biological Diversity in submitting a petition to the FWS to list the tricolored bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We’re also asking the FWS to immediately designate critical habitat for the tricolored bat. While scientists continue to work towards a cure for WNS, it is crucial that we protect all surviving bats from all other threats that we can. Habitat loss is a grave threat – even healthy bats cannot survive without healthy habitat to live in, protected from logging or development. Listing this species under the ESA will grant it the legal protections it desperately needs.

Now that we’ve filed the petition, the Service has 90 days to respond, indicating whether or not it will start the review process to consider listing. We hope that the agency will act quickly. It’s clear that the tricolored bat is running out of time.

White-Nose Comes West

The deadly fungal disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats in the eastern half of the country recently made its way to the west coast.

Learn More »

61 Responses to “Going to Bat for a Species on the Brink”

    • E Rubio

      Dear Defenders of Wildlife, Why can’t a portion of our donations go to purchasing habitat for wild animals? How about starting with purchasing habitat for these bats? I am in no position myself to purchase acres of habitat for wildlife, but your organization draws from hundreds of thousands of us (I hope). Surely $1.00 from each of us at each donation could be used for this vital purpose. If not us collectively (via Defenders of Wildlife), who?

  1. Jeannette Calvo

    Please list the tricolored bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Please also immediately designate critical habitat for the tricolored bat. While scientists continue to work towards a cure for WNS, it is crucial that we protect all surviving bats from all other threats that we can. Habitat loss is a grave threat – even healthy bats cannot survive without healthy habitat to live in, protected from logging or development. Listing this species under the ESA will grant it the legal protections it desperately needs.

  2. Emily Nichols

    Please protect these tricolored endangered bats, this is a crucial and important time. They need and deserve ESA protections and serve a strong ecological purpose. Please think of future generations- if lost we can never get them back. Please save them!

  3. Cheryl Fergeson

    Please protect tricolored bats under the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late!

  4. S. Dormsjo

    Please list these little bats as an endangered species. They preserve our environment by eating many insects which would otherwise overwhelm us – we need each other!

  5. Priscilla Chambers

    Please list the Tricolored bat under the endangered species act.

  6. Marie Dixon

    Bats eat mosquitoes. Lots of them. We need to protect them.

  7. Dorothy Shelley

    FWS I am asking you to lsit the tricolored bat under the Endangered Species Act. Bats are an important part of an ecosystem where they live.These bats need legal protections in place to ensure they survive.

  8. Sara Peña

    Please we have to save them they are we need them, and they deserve to live.

  9. Frederica Miller

    I support adding the TriColored Bat on the Endangered species List. We are all connected and interdependent.

  10. LJ

    It’s clear that without immediate action, we could lose tricolored bats forever.
    Although this tiny bat may not often be seen, every living thing in an ecosystem can feel its impact. As an insect-eater, it is an incredible source of pest control. In fact, one tricolored bat can eat up to 25% of its body weight in insects in just 30 minutes!
    Please do your job and what is best for the bat.

  11. Thomas Marziale

    Please list the trip colored bat under the Endangered species act

  12. Peg Chapman

    This bat is terribly important to the ecology as are all bats and needs to be protected. Seems you have not made much progress on finding the cause of white nose syndrome get busy and help the bats!

  13. Jessica

    We cant continue to eradicate species,save these amazing creatures! Every creature on our planet has a purpose a job to do that keeps our environment and planet in balance. If we continue with this destructive behavior we will have no planet to live apon!

  14. Amanda

    Please list the tricolor-ed bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Please also immediately designate critical habitat for the tricolor-ed bat. While scientists continue to work towards a cure for WNS, it is crucial that we protect all surviving bats from all other threats that we can. Habitat loss is a grave threat, even healthy bats cannot survive without healthy habitat to live in, protected from logging or development. Listing this species under the ESA will grant it the legal protections it desperately needs.

  15. Shanda Muska

    So incredibly scary to see how many species only have under 5 years left before extinction. Many preventable if only more people were informed! Alot of people seem to have no idea and are usually shocked to hear what little bit they could have done would have helped saved many creatures. Manta rays have only up to 3 years left on this earth along with may others. Hit em hard! Good luck!

    • Toby Hoffman

      We are living in greatest extinction event in human history – you are right – the next 3 – 25 years and then it will literally be Hell on Earth.

  16. sheree barka

    Extinction is FINAL… We can stop this so we SHOULD…Let’s SAVE our wildlife for the next generation.

  17. Christina Kazantza

    all species are invaluable and need to be protected. Human greed and idiocy have gone far enough. We depend on all species

  18. William Martin

    Please do what needs to be done to save this bats from extinction

  19. Jane Cheuvront

    Bats are important tool in controlling bugs and they also help with pollination. Bats will eat up to 5,000 mosquitoes per night. And out west in our Western states the bat helps pollinate the cactus that is to make Tequila.

  20. Don and Jane Vanderbush

    PLEASE SAVE THESE BATS FROM EXTINCTION…THEY ARE BENEFICIAL TO THE ENVIRONMENT…

  21. MARTHA LIBIA

    DEBEN PRTOEGER A ESTAS CRIATURAS MARAVILLOSAS, SON UNICAS POR SUS COLORES Y ADEMAS AYUDAN A MERMAR LA POBLACION DE INSECTOS MOLESTOS,

  22. Jane Powell

    Please save these beautiful bats for their own innate right to live.

  23. Deborah Kucowski

    Please save these precious bats from extinction. They are vital to our environment. Please do whatever steps are necessary to save them.

  24. Irena S Struk

    Please list the tricolor-ed bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

  25. D. Clark

    Please protect the tricolored bat under the ESA. They are a beneficial species, and the loss of any species is tragic, with detrimental & unpredictable results. Protection of habitat has other beneficial outcomes in addition to protection for the targeted species.

  26. Rev. Dr. Donald N. Nichols

    I recently purchased a bat house in a National Park. Questions regard hanging the house. How high? What kind of tree? There is a small hole in the back, do I but a nail in the tree and then attach the house. HELP

  27. Audrey Hois

    We lost all our bats at Chautauqua NY. They ate so many mosquitoes and insects..We miss them We need to save as many as we can of these tricolored bats before they are gone, too

  28. Isabella Chub

    Bats are essential in our environment , they are in great need of orotection

  29. Sven Furberg

    We MUST maintain a healthy eco-system! Saving the bats is a crucial part.

  30. Lawrence Cromwell

    People who don’t care about bats had better learn to love flying, biting insects. Bats consume enormous quantities of these pests every day, but can only do so if we protect them. Wake up and protect bats and ourselves at the same time.

  31. Stacy K

    Our duty on this planet is to help those less fortunate. We need to step up, do the right thing and help these beautiful creatures before it’s too late!

  32. Frances Bell

    Can we not stop people going into bat habitat to help prevent the spread of the fungus? Too bad if people don’t like it – our needs do NOT come before the welfare of non-human species.

  33. Cathy Kenderski

    It is crucial that we step up and save animals in need, such as these bats.

  34. Leanne Peltier

    We have to do everything it takes to take care of these small bundles of cuteness. They are so beneficial to the eco system, that just 1 lost species will hurt enormously. Please help.. Thank You

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