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A fungal disease responsible for killing millions of cave-dwelling bats across North America is pushing the northern long-eared bat and other vital bat species to the brink of extinction. 

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced the northern long-eared bat, which became listed as threatened in 2015, has been reclassified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. 

The new rule will take effect Jan. 30, 2023. 

In a statement Tuesday, USFWS Service Director Martha Williams said the listing is an alarm bell and a call to action. 

“White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates," Williams said.

White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that disrupts torpor during hibernation and leads to starvation, is also decimating little brown bats and tricolored bats in Minnesota. 

The USWFS is leading the White-nose Syndrome National Response Team; a coordinated effort to research the disease, development management strategies and help recover affected bat populations. 

The effort has so far development disease surveillance tools to monitor the spread and impacts of white-nose syndrome and the group is currently testing potential treatments to improve bat survival, according to the agency. 

According to USFWS, white-nose syndrome has spread across nearly 80% of the northern long-earned bat's range and is expected to affect 100% of the species' range by the end of the decade. 

An in-depth review conducted to determined the change in listing status indicated white-nose syndrome has caused estimated declines of 97 percent to 100 percent in affected northern long-eared bat populations. 

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