Division of Fish and Wildlife Receives Federal Grant to Monitor - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Division of Fish and Wildlife Receives Federal Grant to Monitor Bat Fungal Disease

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 DOVER, Del. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that Delaware received a nearly $23,000 grant as one of 30 states to receive federal grants for projects related to white-nose syndrome, otherwise known as WNS.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, WNS is a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats as it spreads across North America. Officials say state natural resource agencies will use the funds, totaling nearly $1.3 million, to support research, monitor bat populations and detect and respond to WNS.

With Delaware's $22,928 grant, DNREC's Division of Fish and Wildlife will conduct acoustic monitoring as part of a national bat population monitoring program. "The grant also will fund a part-time employee at Fort Delaware State Park, where WNS was detected in the fort's bat population in 2012," said Wildlife Biologist Holly Niederriter of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. "This employee will educate park visitors on WNS prevention protocols and the importance of bats to help reduce the risk of spreading white-nose syndrome and its associated fungus to non-affected sites outside the fort."

Characterized by a white fungus visible on the noses, wings, tails and ears of bats, DNREC says WNS is transmitted primarily by contact between bats, but people can also spread it by accidentally carrying the microscopic fungal spores on clothing and gear. Although bats do the vast majority of WNS dispersal, wildlife officials say people are the only ones that can move it continental distances in short time periods. The fungus thrives in cold temperatures and is found mainly in areas with mines and caves - or the cave-like conditions in parts of the Civil War-era fort - where bats hibernate. There is no evidence that WNS poses a health threat to humans, pets or livestock.

Niederriter says Delaware has good reason to be concerned about protecting its bat population. "As the primary consumer of night flying insects, bats help control mosquito, beetle and moth populations, including some serious agricultural pests," she said.
                                               
First discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, the disease has spread through the eastern U.S. and parts of Canada, and continues to move westward according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They say they are leading a cooperative effort with federal and state agencies, tribes, researchers, universities and other non-governmental organizations to investigate and manage WNS. In addition to developing science-based protocols and guidance for land management agencies and other partners to slow the spread of WNS, the USFWS has funded many research projects to support management and improve understanding of the disease.

Thirty states submitted proposals requesting $1,284,048. The USFWS says all eligible requests were given at least partial awards, ranging from about $11,500 to $52,500, for a total of $1,276,088. They say the funding for grants was provided through the Endangered Species Recovery and Science Applications programs.

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