Endangered brown bat may become DC's official 'state' mammal

A small, brown endangered bat would become the “official state mammal” of America's capital city, under a proposed ordinance that will get a public hearing in January

WASHINGTON -- A small, brown endangered bat would become the “official state mammal” of America's capital city, under a proposed ordinance that will get a public hearing in January.

The idea was proposed earlier this year by several Girl Scout troops after they studied the little brown bats, according to a D.C. Council statement.

“The Little Brown Bat has good friends in the Girl Scouts of the Capitol Hill Cluster School,” the legislation says.

The creatures, known to scientists as myotis lucifugus, typically grow to about 3.5 inches (8 centimeters) tall with a wingspan of up to 11 inches (27 centimeters). They are found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program . Though small, the bats can fly up 22 mph (35 kph) and can eat up to 1,200 bugs per night, accord to the legislation.

The little brown bat population has been hurt by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome. The disease kills bats by increasing the amount of energy used during hibernation, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature considered the bat endangered as of last year. There were likely more than 6 million of the little brown bats before the infectious fungal disease was discovered in the U.S. in 2006, according to the organization's website. Since then, there's been a 90% decrease in the known numbers of hibernating little brown bats in Canada and the U.S., it says. It predicts there's a 99% chance the bat will be extinct in the northeastern U.S. by 2026.

The public hearing is set for Jan. 27, WTOP-FM reported.