Kansas officials concerned about long-eared bat listing

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A pending federal decision on whether to list a small bat as a threatened or endangered species could affect some construction projects in eastern Kansas, although the extent of any restrictions is still undetermined.

The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife is expected to announce April 2 whether the northern long-eared bat will be listed as an endangered or threatened species. The bat has been hit by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, which has decimated its population in the northeast U.S. and appears to be spreading west.

Kansas is on the edge of the bat's range, but 66 of the state's counties could be affected if it is placed on the federal list, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1M5HSN3 ).

The issue was highlighted last week, when Wichita city engineer Gary Janzen told the City Council not to delay decisions on an interchange project for too long because the bat listing could affect tree removal at the project site.

The bat has been found in a handful of north-central Kansas counties, including Ellis, Graham, Marshall, Osborne, Phillips, Rooks and Washington, according to Curtis Schmidt, zoological collections manager at Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History. He said the restrictions will depend on whether the bat is considered threatened or endangered.

"There's talk right now that if they're threatened and not endangered, then each region will be able to protect them differently based on how well populations are and what the threats are locally," Schmidt said. "So if we go that route, our hands probably won't be tied as much."

White-nose syndrome was discovered in New York state in 2006, and the bat's population has declined 99 percent in the northeast, said Tony Sullins, chief of endangered species for the Midwest region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department. While no white-nose cases have been spotted in Kansas "researchers say it's coming," said Ed Miller of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Schmidt said the bats are relatively common in Kansas. Fort Hays State and the state's wildlife agency plan to coordinate on a three-year study to learn more about the bat in Kansas, including a survey of where it lives.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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