Federal funds help Delaware’s fight against bat disease

 (photo courtesy USFWS/Ann Froschauer)

(photo courtesy USFWS/Ann Froschauer)

Delaware will get a portion of $1.3 million in federal funds to support research and monitoring of white-nose syndrome in the state’s bat population.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give Delaware a $23,000 grant to combat white-nose syndrome, a fatal fungus affecting bat populations in 25 states. 

The state Division of Fish and Wildlife will use the money to conduct acoustic monitoring of bats and to educate visitors at Fort Delaware State Park. White-nose syndrome was first detected in the fort’s bat population in 2012. The fungus thrives in cold, dark conditions that are common in caves where bats hibernate. In Delaware, both bats and the fungus have found a home in parts of the Civil War-era fort that mimic that cold, dark habitat.

“The grant will fund a part-time employee at Fort Delaware,” said wildlife biologist Holly Niederriter. “This employee will educate park visitors on WNS prevention protocols and the importance of bats.” She said bats have a significant impact on the quality of life for humans. “As the primary consumer of night flying insects, bats help control mosquito, beetle and moth populations, including some serious agricultural pests,” Niederriter said.

White-nose syndrome is primarily spread by contact between bats, but it can also be spread by people who accidentally carry the microscopic fungal spores on clothing or gear. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading the fight to control WNS and is funding a number of research efforts to understand the best ways to manage and understand the disease. A total of 30 states got funding through the Endangered Species Recover and Science Applications program.

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