Tri-national project takes a deep dive into how North American bats are faring


By Kristen Pope

In the next 15 years, 52% of North American bat species are at risk of severe population decline, according to the recently released State of the Bats report. Bat Conservation International (BCI)  joined forces with the North American Bat Conservation Alliance (NABCA) to produce this first-ever report on the status and threats of bats across North America.

The State of the Bats report focuses on threats to bats and the dangers they face, including climate change, white-nose syndrome, habitat loss, and wind energy. They found 98% of bat species are losing habitat, and 82% of bat species across Canada, the United States, and Mexico are likely to be impacted by climate change in the next 15 years.

Three bat species—including northern long-eared (Myotis septentrionalis), tricolored (Perimyotis subflavus), and little brown (Myotis lucifugus) bats—have declined by more than 90% due to white-nose syndrome. The northern long-eared bat was federally listed as Endangered in the U.S. in 2022, and the tricolored bat is proposed for federal listing as Endangered later this year. However, there are Congressional efforts underway to overturn these important protections for the northern long-eared bat and make it more difficult to protect vital habitats. These three species are already protected as Endangered in Canada.

The North American Bat Conservation Alliance is a consortium that represents bat experts from Mexico, Canada, and the U.S, including representatives from government agencies, academic scientists, and conservation practitioners. BCI served as a coordinating force to work with over 100 experts across these three countries to systematically assess the threats to all bat species in each. 

“The report is an important baseline for knowing our conservation priorities for bats. It also shows the importance of the ongoing work of the North American Bat Monitoring Program,” says Dr. Amanda Adams, BCI Director of Research Coordination. The North American Bat Conservation Alliance plans to update the report every few years.

However, there is also good news for bats. Conservation efforts and legal protections through Endangered status work to recover species. Fourteen percent of bat species have shown signs of recovery over the past 15 years, including the lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) which became the first bat species to be delisted from Endangered status in both Mexico and the U.S., and gray bats (Myotis grisescens), which remain Endangered but show signs of recovery.  

The report’s biggest message is the need for people to be aware of bats, why they are at risk, and what we can do to help them.