Sunday, June 7, 2009

"To the Bat Cave," Robin! or "How U can Help our Bats"

NJ - Annual bat count takes on added significance
Posted by: "Maureen Koplow" share112943
Fri Jun 5, 2009 9:48 am (PDT)

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NJ - Annual bat count takes on added significance

Friday, June 05, 2009
Star-Ledger Staff

Volunteers were called on yesterday to join an annual summer bat count
in New Jersey that could further determine how many have fallen to the
enigmatic "white-nose syndrome" responsible for devastating their
Northeastern populations.

As the Congressional Natural Resource Committee in Washington, D.C.,
began yesterday to review federal responses to the dilemma, the Conserve
Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey launched an effort to monitor roosting
spots where bats spend their summers in the state. From old buildings
and barns to dead trees, checking roosts may help state biologists confirm
their worst fears -- that as many as 95 percent of the state's bats died
over the winter.

"We ask our volunteers each year to go to a known bat roost at least twice
between now and early August and count them as the bats fly out in the
evening," said Maria Grace of Conserve Wildlife. "This year, we're telling
people that not seeing bats in those roosts is just as important to note.
We'll know then how significant the die-off is due to white-nose syndrome."

After mass die-offs of bats in 2006 and 2007 in New York, the phenomenon
was named after a strange white fungus found on their snouts and wings.
Since then, it has spread to nine states from Vermont to Virginia. Bats began
dying in New Jersey in January and a pre-spring inspection of the state's
largest hibernating spot, or hibernaculum, the Hibernia mine in Rockaway
Township, revealed a 95 percent population drop.

The syndrome prompts bats to wake from hibernation in the dead of
winter, even fly from their hibernaculum, and use up crucial fat reserves.

"The exact cause of mortality of affected bats is not yet fully understood,
but the newly identified fungus is considered a likely contributor," Marvin
Moriarty, northeast regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
told the natural resource committee yesterday.

The fungus invades the skin and underlying tissue, particularly at the bat's
wings, that help balance complex physiological processes such as body
temperature. All six bat species that hibernate in the Northeast have been
affected, and scientists fear the syndrome will spread to large bat
populations in the South and Southwest -- and that some species may
never recover even if a solution is found.

"Bats differ from most other small mammals in that they have long lives
and reproduce slowly," Moriarty said.

Bats are insect eaters and help human agriculture. The 1 million killed
would have consumed 8,000 pounds of insects in a single summer night,
scientists said.

Conserve Wildlife will assign a bat roost to volunteers who contact the
foundation at (609) 984-0621 or at

Brian T. Murray may be reached at (973) 392-4153 or

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