Delaware park visitors asked to help bats

Fort Delaware State Park is scheduled to reopen for tours this week and visitors are urged to follow a few guidelines in order to keep an illness that affects bats from spreading.

Among the many attractions and things to tour at the park, people who visit this season will learn about the small population of bats there. They are being asked to take extra precaution because of white nose syndrome. As a result, people must wear closed toe shoes, wipe their feet to remove loose dirt when leaving the park as well as stand on wet “bat-mats” to clean and disinfect their shoes.

“Although WNS has posed no threat to humans or animals other than certain species of bats, microscopic WNS spores can easily hitch a ride on shoes, clothing, cameras and backpacks from the fort to areas where unaffected bats reside,” said DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Holly Niederriter. “Because of this, we need to educate visitors to Fort Delaware about the presence of WNS and how they can help prevent spreading it to other bat populations.”

White nose syndrome was discovered in 2006 and since then, it has killed nearly 7 million bats.  However, Delawareans don’t have too much to worry about since the illness is mostly found in areas where temperatures are extremely cold such as caves.  The fungus can survive in the Delaware though, due to cave-like conditions and the temperature levels to allow bats to hibernate.

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