A young male eastern small-footed bat. Credit: Courtesy of Acadia National Park

MONTPELIER, Vermont — Vermont environmental groups allege in a lawsuit that a state agency has failed to protect endangered bats when spraying pesticides to deter mosquitos.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council and Center for Biological Diversity accused the state Agency of Natural Resources of endangering five bat species while spraying for bugs — a claim that one official said Tuesday has no legal or scientific merit.

“If our scientists had credible scientific evidence that the mosquito control district insecticide use was having an impact on the bat population, we would certainly take action,” Louis Porter, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Burlington Free Press.

The Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat and tricolored bat are protected by Vermont’s Protection of Endangered Species Act.

Mason Overstreet, an attorney at Vermont Law School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic, said that “poorly regulated pesticide spraying is putting the state’s threatened and endangered bats at risk.”

The environmental groups said that the pesticide spraying is done at night when bats are hunting for insects. The bats are exposed to the toxins when they inhale or eat insects that have been sprayed, the newspaper said.

Porter said the state has “done as much or more as any state in the country to protect and restore threatened and endangered bats.”