by E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow Greg Walcher
As appearing in The Daily Sentinel
The lesser long-nosed bat is no longer in danger of extinction, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so it will be taken off the endangered species list. New Mexico and Arizona leaders have advocated de-listing for years. They are getting their wish, partly because of red plastic hummingbird feeders.
The bats’ attraction to hummingbird feeders is nothing new. Local hummingbird watchers considered bats pests for many years because of it. But after these particular bats were listed as endangered in 1988, and thus protected by the toughest of laws, people started paying closer attention.
Initially, the species was referred to as “Sanborn’s long-nosed bat,” though the government dropped that moniker about 20 years ago. At that time, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that there were only 1,000 of the bats left, all of them in one last remaining roost, in a cave in Big Bend National Park, Texas. Because this particular bat feeds on the nectar of agave plants — the same plants used to make mescal and tequila — it was assumed that the primary threats to the bat were agave harvesting and cattle grazing, both of which activists wanted to stop.