white-nose syndrome

White-nose syndrome has devastated bat populations wherever the fungal infection has appeared. (Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation/AP)

The federal government has listed three species of bats under threat from white-nose syndrome as endangered.

The listing, announced Wednesday, includes little brown bats, northern long-eared bats, and tri-coloured bats. Populations of the bats have been devastated by white-nose syndrome. The disease first appeared in New York state in 2006 and has since spread into eastern Canada.

The bats are already protected by provincial legislation in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario.

Scott McBurney, a wildlife pathologist at Charlottetown’s Atlantic Veterinary College, has been lobbying for the listing and he is pleased by the news.

But McBurney said the federal listing will primarily only protect bats on federal lands, like P.E.I. National Park. Provincial listing, he said, is required for the best protection of the species.

"The province has a larger responsibility, perhaps, for that species because of their presence across the Island,” he said.

P.E.I. slow to declare bats endangered

McBurney wants P.E.I. to follow the lead of other provinces and list these bats as endangered.

P.E.I. has never listed any species as endangered.

Brad Potter, director of the fish and wildlife division for P.E.I., said part of the challenge with listing bats is many of them are in old homes and barns, so a listing could change what people can and cannot do on their private properties.

"Bats occur primarily on private land,” said Potter.

“There are some significant implications to listing, which need to be well understood.”

Potter said a report by P.E.I.'s species at risk committee is looking at those implications with a list of recommendations expected soon.

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