FARMINGTON — A fungus native to European caves that has been decimating millions of bats nationwide since its discovery in 2006 has drastically reduced populations of three of Maine’s cave bat species.

They are the little brown, northern long-eared and eastern small-footed bats.

That’s what people attending Tuesday night’s public hearing by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife learned at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Little browns and northern long-eareds are proposed for endangered status while the small-footeds would be listed as threatened, said Charlie Todd, the department’s endangered species coordinator.

A prolific disease called white-nose syndrome, which is caused by a fungus, is wiping them out. The disease was first documented in 2006 in New York.

“They’re undergoing fairly well-known and widespread declines throughout the Northeast, especially,” Todd said. “Literally, millions of bats have died in the last five years due to the infectious disease spreading rapidly across the country. It started in the Northeast, but it didn’t arrive in Maine until 2011, and it’s produced about 90 percent declines already.”

It will take decades to bring them back, Todd said. “There are no quick fixes here. And there are some possibilities of things getting worse before the tide turns.”

He said conservationists can’t be narrow-minded with bat recovery efforts.

“We might have to manage caves better,” he said. “We might have to test more bats. We might even have to discourage bat houses. Bats living in a clustered fashion is not a good idea anymore while the disease is still flourishing.”

Some bats are prospering, probably because other bats are suffering greatly, he said.

Todd said the eastern small-footed bats are not experiencing the problem to the same degree, which is why they’re proposed for threatened status.

The other three newcomers to the endangered list mentioned in the hearing are the Frigga fritillary, a butterfly named after Frigga, the wife of Odin and goddess of the clouds and heavens in Norse mythology; the six-whorl vertigo land snail; and the cobblestone tiger beetle.

All are currently documented in single locations, according to a department handout on its proposed additions and changes.

The butterfly has only been found in northern Piscataquis County and was first found in 2002. The snail is only found within a small fen in northern Aroostook County and the beetle was only discovered recently in a 10-mile stretch of a river in Somerset County.

“So even though they may not be experiencing dramatic changes in their status, they are examples of rarities that we can offer special protection under the Maine Endangered Species Act,” Todd said.

Additional proposed changes include two birds whose populations have gotten worse in the past eight years, he said.

These are the great cormorant and the black-crowned night heron, which Todd said are declining steadily. Their status is proposed to be changed from threatened to endangered.

Two other animals that have been on the list for 10 and 20 years, respectively, are the Roaring Brook mayfly, which had been found only at Roaring Brook at Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, and the Clayton’s copper butterfly. Their populations have been getting better, so the state is proposing to change their status from endangered to threatened.

“And then one poor bird on the list actually needs a name change and we sometimes have to do this,” Todd said of a small wading bird listed in 2007 as the common moorhen. It is now known as the common gallinule.

During the hearing, David Kalenak of Farmington said he was in favor of all of the recommendations, but he thought it might be too late for the proposed bat species.

“By the time it gets enacted, there might not be any of them, so that would be my main concern,” he said. “And the other half of that concern is, having taken that out of the ecosystem, what impact is that going to have?”

Gary Corson of New Sharon said he, too, supported the proposals. He also was concerned about the bats.

Twenty-two species are designated as endangered on the state list and 23 species are listed as threatened. To view the list, visit www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/endangered/listed_species_me.htm.

To submit public comments in writing by Friday, Aug. 15., email [email protected] or mail them to: Becky Orff, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, 284 State St., #41 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

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