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A bat has been listed as endangered as its population dwindles in Maine and other states

An undated file photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of a northern long-eared bat.
An undated file photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of a northern long-eared bat. A fungal disease has devastated the species, now listed as threatened.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reclassifying the northern long-eared bat as endangered.

The bats are found in 37 states, including Maine and every other New England state. Their population has been decimated by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that infects them during hibernation. State biologist Cory Stearns says historically, 60-100 long-eared bats were found in three Maine caves.

"During our last count, which was the winter of 2019 and '20, none of them had northern long-eared bats," he said.

Stearns says they've still counted bats in summer surveys, but their population continues to decline.

"With little brown bats, which are another species that's heavily affected by white nose syndrome, our data is suggesting that they're starting to increase," said Stearns. "So hopefully northern long-eared bats will respond similarly at some point, but currently we're not seeing that rebound from that species yet."

The federal endangered listing will trigger more oversight of the impacts of forestry, wind energy, and other development on the species. Stearns says bats are important ecologically because they keep insect populations in check, including pests that damage agriculture.

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