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Delaware monitors bat population for White Nose Syndrome

From the Delaware Department of Natural Resources

-- Delaware environmental officials continue to monitor the state’s bat populations for White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease that has caused mass mortality at bat hibernation sites in northeastern states. While WNS has not been detected in Delaware at this time, as many as 1 million bats have died so far from the disease, most in states notable with caves and mines where bats colonize when hibernating.

Only bat species that overwinter communally are known to be affected by WNS, but those include some of the more common bats, such as the little brown bat, big brown bat and the tri-colored bat (formerly known as the Eastern pipistrelle). Northern long-eared bats, small-footed bats and the endangered Indiana bat have also been affected. WNS was first discovered in 2006 near Albany, N.Y., and has since been found to have killed bats in nine states.

Delaware wildlife biologists are collecting information to assessing the status of the disease and its effect on bat populations in the states such as Delaware that have no caves or underground mines.

Public input is sought in gathering this information, said wildlife biologist Holly Niederriter of DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife.

“Right now, we are looking for bats over-wintering in Delaware. The most likely species for people to see in winter is the hearty big brown bat, which can over-winter in residential attics, basements or barns. We also plan to check bats for signs of WNS as they return to summer nesting sites and will continue our volunteer bat count program in the spring,” she said.

Citizens are asked to use an online reporting application if they know of any winter or summer roosting sites. If someone finds five or more dead bats in one location, or sees a similar number of bats flying in the middle of the day or clinging low on structures, please report the activity.

To report online, go to http://www.fw.delaware.gov/bats/ . Seeing one or two bats out during the day or clinging to the side of a house is not unusual, and need not be reported. For more information, call Bill Langworthy or Holly Niederriter of Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife at (302) 653-2880.

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