County board hears latest Panola problem – alert sounded for Myotis septentrionalis

Published 11:23 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Of all the problems in Panola County, add one more to the list.

Namely, myotis septentrionalis, also known as the northern long-eared bat.

Assistant county engineer Steven Gray informed the Board of Supervisors of the situation at Monday’s meeting at the Sardis Courthouse as part of the regular agenda.

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“This will make your day,” Gray said, prefacing his update. “The northern long-eared bat is now on the endangered species list and all our projects will have to be inspected now. That means looking in the trees and under the bridges and anywhere they might be.”

“It’s just another thing added to the list to make it harder to deal with the environmental requirements,” he said.

Environmental studies for all types of scenarios are required for all major municipal, county, and state projects, often adding thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars to overall costs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have conducted some of these studies for this type of bat in the past, but Gray indicated those responsibilities and costs could become another burden for county government.

The Wildlife Service says the northern long-eared bat is a wide-ranging, federally threatened bat species, found in 37 states and eight provinces in North America. The species typically overwinters in caves or mines and spends the remainder of the year in forested habitats. 

As its name suggests, the northern long-eared bat is distinguished by its long ears, particularly as compared to other bats in the genus Myotis. The northern long-eared bat is about 3–3.7 inches in length, with a wingspan of 9–10 inches.

Although there are many threats to the species, the predominant threat by far is white-nose syndrome. If this disease had not emerged, it is unlikely the northern long-eared bat would be experiencing such a dramatic population decline. 

White-nose syndrome was the main reason for listing the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2015. Since symptoms were first observed in New York in 2006, white-nose syndrome has spread rapidly throughout the species’ range in the United States. Numbers of northern long-eared bats, gathered from hibernacula counts, have declined by 97 to 100 percent across the species’ range.