Goin’ batty

THE EAGLES have flown, but now there’s concern about the possibility of other flyers – northern long-eared bats – in the area where a landslide repair costing about $35 million is planned north of Brilliant.

It has been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Wildlife officials also have determined that the eastern small-footed bat doesn’t warrant that listing.

Bald eagles which are endangered in most states including Ohio had a nest north of Brilliant, and Ohio Department of Transportation officials pointed out the eagles didn’t hold up the landslide project. The nest was removed outside the birds’ breeding season, and ODOT was required to monitor the area where the nest was removed Dec. 11, according to Becky Giauque, public information officer for ODOT, District 11.

Explaining the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed the northern long-eared bat as endangered, Thomas Stratton, District 11 environmental coordinator, said, “As of right now, they don’t have any jurisdiction over that species. We feel it will be listed as endangered as early as October of this year.”

Stratton said ODOT officials are coordinating with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the removal of the trees after property for the project is acquired.

ODOT is working with that federal fish and wildlife agency “in an effort so the project won’t be held up,” he added. He explained fish and wildlife officials will tell ODOT what can be done so it won’t affect the species.

Stratton is hopeful that the trees in the project area can be cut in September of this year.

Two primary habitats for many bats are hibernation sites during the winter, such as caves and mines, and roosting sites for reproduction (tree cavities) during the summer, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The landslide project is within their northern long-eared bats’ range, and some of them have been seen in Jefferson County.

Mike Paprocki, transportation director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, reported on the landslide project during BHJ’s January meeting. Joe Ellis, Wells Township trustee, later reported at a township meeting about Paprocki’s comments concerning the landslide project north and south of Brilliant.

Paprocki reported that some netting was done in Jefferson County and some of the long-eared creatures were located in the county.

The area of the county where they were netted wasn’t specified, Paprocki said Friday.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, “Under the Endangered Species Act, an endangered plant or animal is one that is in danger of becoming extinct. If a final decision is made to list the northern long-eared bat, the species will be protected from take – harming, harassing, killing – and federal agencies will work to conserve the bat and its habitat as they fund, authorize or carry out activities. In addition, a recovery plan will be development for the species.”

The primary threat to that species, according to fish and wildlife officials, is a disease, white-nose syndrome which has killed an estimated 5.5 million cave-hibernating bats in various areas of the United States and Canada.

This type of bat is considered by ODNR to be a species of concern. This means the species might become threatened in the Buckeye State under continued or increased stress.

Bats are the only mammals capable of flight, but the wooded area north of Brilliant also was attractive to a high flyer who soars to a greater height.

ODOT officials indicated the eagles which had a nest in the project area had left of their own accord, including the eaglets who have left the nest.

Stratton said a federal permit was received from the Fish and Wildlife Service so the nest could be removed. The removal was outside the birds’ breeding season.

As to the landslide repair project itself, construction is expected to be completed in two seasons.