Contact: Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
DNREC awarded federal grant supporting research, monitoring and response to White-nose Syndrome in bats
DOVER (July 1, 2015) – Delaware’s efforts to address White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease that causes mortality in bats, will be helped thanks to a federal grant totaling $18,454 awarded to DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. The grant, provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Endangered Species Recovery and Science Applications programs, will be used to support research, monitor bat populations and respond to WNS in the state.
“Bats are important to Delaware’s ecology, directly impacting our daily lives. They feed on millions of insects, including mosquitoes, as well as moths and other agricultural pests, reducing the amount of pesticides needed in crop production,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “DNREC has been monitoring our bat populations and working with the public to prevent the spread of White-nose Syndrome, and we appreciate this support that helps us continue our efforts in locating and conserving bat colonies.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), while WNS is not known to impact human, pet or livestock health, the disease has caused the death of 5.7 to 6.7 million bats in North America. Since first discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, the disease has spread at an alarming rate and is now confirmed in 26 states and five Canadian provinces.
The Delaware grant was part of almost $1 million in grants to 35 states and the District of Columbia announced today by USFWS Regional Director Wendi Weber. “These grants provide support to our state partners, who are our allies in fighting White-nose Syndrome,” said Weber. “We’re happy to bolster Delaware’s capacity for response, which strengthens our overall national response to this devastating disease.”
WNS, which thrives in cold temperatures, is characterized by a white fungus on the noses, wings, tails and ears of bats. DNREC biologists first detected the fungus in a summer colony of bats in 2010 and confirmed Delaware’s first WNS cases in 2012 on hibernating bats at Fort Delaware and Fort DuPont in New Castle County. Delaware does not have typical bat hibernation sites such as mines and large caves, but the cave-like conditions at the forts provide the right temperature and humidity levels for bats to hibernate and for the fungus to survive.
Since 2009, DNREC wildlife biologists, along with citizen volunteers, have been searching for colonies and monitoring bats for signs of WNS. They have solicited help from the public in collecting information that has been used to assess the status of the disease and its effect on bat populations. In 2012 biologists developed a plan that prevents Fort Delaware visitors from inadvertently spreading the fungus that causes WNS, whose microscopic spores can easily hitch a ride on shoes, clothing, cameras and backpacks, from Fort Delaware to unaffected areas.
“This grant will provide essential support in continuing our efforts to monitor and respond to White-nose Syndrome,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Saveikis. “We are pleased to receive this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant that will help us protect these valuable mammals.”
Only bat species that hibernate are known to be affected by WNS and include species found in Delaware – the little brown, big brown, tri-colored, northern long-eared and small-footed bats and the federally-endangered Indiana bat. The northern long-eared and little brown bats are among the most severely impacted by WNS. Because of these bats’ dramatic population declines, the northern long-eared and little brown bats were added to Delaware’s list of endangered species in 2014, and the northern long-eared bat was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in May 2015.
For more information on bats and White-nose Syndrome in Delaware, contact Holly Niederriter, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife at 302-735-8651.
Vol. 45, No. 212