DNREC awarded federal grant to support Delaware’s research, monitoring and response to White-nose Syndrome in state’s bats

DOVER (Aug. 19, 2016) – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife has been awarded a federal grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to support Delaware’s ongoing research and monitoring and response to White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease that causes mortality in bats and has taken a severe toll on hibernating North American bat species since it was discovered almost 10 years ago. 

Characterized by a white fungus visible on a bat’s nose, wings, tail and ears, WNS is transmitted primarily by contact between bats and since first discovered in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, has spread at an alarming rate and is now confirmed in 29 states and five Canadian provinces. According to the USFWS, while the disease is not known to impact human, pet or livestock health, WNS has caused the death of 5.7 to 6.7 million bats in North America. In Delaware, WNS related deaths were first confirmed in 2012 among bats hibernating in Fort Delaware and Fort DuPont in New Castle County.

The 2016 grant marks the seventh year that DNREC has received funding from the USFWS’s Endangered Species Recovery and Science Applications program to help fight the disease, with this year’s funding totaling $22,693.

“Bats are important to Delaware’s ecology, feeding on millions of insects, including mosquitoes, beetles, moths and agricultural pests, and in so doing, also helping us ward off potential threats to public health and the food supply,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “Now we are trying to reciprocate with our concern over the bats’ health by working to help bats recover from WNS. Since 2009, DNREC has been monitoring the state’s bat populations and working with the public to limit the spread of WNS. Thanks to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service funding, we can continue strengthening our response to this disease that has been devastating to North American bats.”

Only bat species that hibernate are known to be affected by WNS, including such species as the little brown, big brown, tri-colored, northern long-eared and eastern small-footed bats – all found in Delaware. The northern long-eared and little brown bats are among the most severely impacted by WNS. Because of these bats’ dramatic population declines, the northern long-eared and little brown bats were added to Delaware’s list of endangered species in 2014, and the northern long-eared bat was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in May 2015.

Big brown bat hibernating at Fort Delaware/DNREC photo
Big brown bat hibernating at Fort Delaware/DNREC photo

“The cave-like conditions at Fort Delaware provide ideal temperature and humidity levels for bats to hibernate and for the fungus that causes WNS to survive,” said DNREC Biologist Holly Niederriter, who heads the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s bat monitoring efforts. ”WNS continues to be a threat to bats that hibernate there. Our winter surveys at the Fort have shown a steady decline in bat numbers, with 40 percent fewer bats counted in 2015 compared to 2013.”

Hundreds of locations within Fort Delaware have been tested for the presence of the fungus that causes WNS, and potential methods for reducing the amount of fungus there have been evaluated. The microscopic spores of WNS can easily hitch a ride on shoes, clothing, cameras and backpacks, which led biologists to develop a plan in 2012 that prevents Fort Delaware visitors from inadvertently spreading the fungus from the Fort to unaffected areas. In addition, these grant funds were used to produce interpretive signs and an interactive kiosk to show Fort visitors the importance of bats and how to protect them.

 “This USFWS grant provides much needed funds that will be used to collect data that will help us determine how to best protect Delaware’s bat species from WNS and implement strategies that will decrease the chances of spreading the disease to other bat sites,” Niederriter said. “We’ll also be using the funding to continue our efforts to educate visitors at Fort Delaware about bats and WNS.”

Delaware’s grant was part of almost $1 million in funding for natural resource agencies in 34 states and the District of Columbia that were announced by USFWS Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber. “A state’s response to white-nose syndrome depends on how long the disease has been there or how close they are to known occurrences,” said Weber, who is also co-chair of the WNS Executive Committee. “Where it has been established, the focus is on increasing survival of bats. On the leading edge of the disease front, it’s also on limiting the spread, and where the disease has not been discovered, it’s on preventing the arrival of WNS. With this funding, we’re happy to help the states on all fronts to defeat this deadly disease.”

The Division of Fish and Wildlife is continuing its volunteer bat count project to search for bat colonies, monitor bats for signs of WNS and assess possible changes in bat populations. Delaware residents are encouraged to contact Holly Niederriter, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife at 302-735-8651 for more information.

For more information on bats in Delaware, please visit http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/bats. To report a bat colony or unusual bat behavior, please call 302-735-8651.


National Mosquito Control Awareness Week June 23-29: DNREC Mosquito Control Section urges: Do your part in helping keep mosquito populations down in Delaware

DOVER (June 21, 2013) – As if the great numbers of mosquitoes expected to hatch from recent heavy rainfall in Delaware weren’t enough of a reminder, the American Mosquito Control Association has declared the week of June 23-29 as the 17th annual National Mosquito Control Awareness Week.

In observance of the event, Delaware’s Mosquito Control Section is encouraging Delawareans to take precautions to avoid or reduce mosquito bites, and to put particular emphasis on eliminating backyard mosquito-producing habitat. “As a sustaining member of the American Mosquito Control Association, the Delaware Mosquito Control Section joins with our AMCA colleagues around the country in pointing to all our good labors for making modern life as mosquito-free as possible, or at least tolerable compared to horrendous infestation conditions from past eras,” said Dr. William Meredith, DNREC Mosquito Control Section administrator and past president of the AMCA. “But we can’t achieve all of this on our own, so we urge property owners to help us – and help themselves, too – by practicing good water sanitation on their lands.”

With the large amounts of rain the state has received this month, there are plenty of natural sources for mosquitoes, and Mosquito Control Section staff is working hard to control the large numbers of mosquitoes that may emerge from these natural habitats. However, staying on top of the many artificial habitats and sources of standing water requires the help of homeowners throughout the state. The best medicine for mosquitoes is prevention, and it’s easy to make a difference in your community by eliminating as much standing water from your yard and from artificial containers on your property as possible and encouraging your neighbors to do the same.

The growing population of Asian tiger mosquitoes is of particular concern with artificial container habitats. The Asian tiger mosquito is an aggressive, daytime biter distinguished by its white stripes on a black body. Asian tiger mosquitoes lay eggs and hatch from tarps, flower pots, boats, tires, rain gutters, corrugated pipes (especially ones connected to downspouts) – anything around your yard that can collect water. These nuisance mosquitoes don’t fly more than several hundred yards from where they are born, so that means that if you have this type, the source is very likely your yard or one of your immediate neighbors. Removal of even the smallest amounts of standing water in artificial containers from your property will help reduce or eliminate these mosquitoes from your area. 

If you can’t eliminate the mosquitoes from your area, remember to protect yourself from mosquito bites by avoiding outdoor activities during peak mosquito times (dusk to dawn), wearing long sleeves and long pants, and/or properly using mosquito repellent. 

Also: To help the Mosquito Control Section determine when and where to provide control services, please report intolerable numbers of biting mosquitoes as follows:

  • New Castle County and northern Kent County from Dover north, call Mosquito Control’s Glasgow office at 302-836-2555
  • Remainder of southern Kent County and all of Sussex County, call Mosquito Control’s Milford office at 302-422-1512

For more information on Delaware Mosquito Control, or to request mosquito control service, residents of New Castle County and northern Kent County, including Dover, Little Creek, Kitts Hummock, and Hartly, can call the Glasgow Office at 302-836-2555. Residents of Sussex County and southern Kent County including, Marydel, Camden-Wyoming, and Magnolia, can call the Milford Office at 302-422-1512. 

Advance public notice of when and where spraying will occur is given daily via radio announcements, by calling 800-338-8181 toll-free, or by visiting http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Services/Pages/MosquitoSection.aspx. Interested parties may also subscribe to receive email notices by visiting the DNREC homepage – click on “Email List Subscription” under Services and follow directions to sign up for mosquito control spray announcements. 

For more information about Delaware’s Mosquito Control program, call 302-739-9917.

 Vol. 43, No. 255

 Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902


Bridge-nesting peregrine falcon fledglings take a tumble but get helping hands toward survival

USFWS biologist Craig Koppie returns two rescued peregrine falcons to their nest atop the St. Georges BridgeST. GEORGES (June 18, 2013) – A winning combination of citizen awareness, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement, Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service collaborated recently to rescue and subsequently return a pair of juvenile peregrine falcons to their nesting location on the St. Georges Bridge over the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal after the birds had “crash-landed” on the bridge’s roadway while attempting their first flight.

Known as the world’s fastest bird, peregrine falcons have nested in Delaware since the late 1980s when they were carefully reintroduced to the eastern United States as the population rebounded from a federally endangered species listing. Due to the pesticide DDT, the entire eastern population had completely disappeared and recovery was uncertain. Delaware was not an obvious place for bringing them back, as the landscape lacks any naturally-occurring cliffs, the peregrines’ preferred habitat. However, the state boasts several large and high bridges that the falcons find as a surrogate for cliffs. The first nesting pair was on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and over the past three decades, falcons have also taken up residence on the Summit, St. Georges, and Reedy Point Bridges over the C&D Canal. 

Three years ago, the Division of Fish & Wildlife began monitoring a new pair of peregrines atop the St. Georges Bridge. The steel truss bridge serves well as nesting location, or aerie, but it also can be a perilous place for juvenile falcons as they prepare to make their first flights. With their nest scrape high in the arches of the bridge, young birds have fallen into the C&D Canal or landed on the deck of the bridge, often resulting in mortality.The two rescued falcons are safely returned to the catwalk during a successful release atop the St. Georges Bridge.

Twice this month, two fledglings leaving the St. Georges Bridge nest for the first time might have met with such misfortune. Instead, quick thinking by citizens who saw and reported the falcons on the deck and roadbed of the bridge – amidst passing traffic – triggered a quick response from Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement agents who rescued the falcons and transported them to the nationally-renowned Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark. 

After thorough examination and a few days of observation, Tri-State Bird Rescue reported that both falcons were in great condition and ready to be returned to their nest. On Wednesday, June 12, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raptor biologist Craig Koppie attempted to reintroduce the two juveniles, both females, to their parents.  

With the actual nest site a precarious perch inaccessible to humans, Mr. Koppie elected to place the falcons on the catwalk of the bridge, giving them a safer venue for continuing to exercise their wings and to make short flights. “Returning the young to the nest at this age is often difficult and requires a plan so the release will not end up in the same manner – with birds falling to the ground again,” he said. “To minimize risk of the birds immediately taking flight before they’re ready, I immersed the young falcons in water to soak their body and flight feathers. This makes the fledglings heavy and wet, and they will not have the desire to bolt once released. I also placed food (quail) along the catwalk before taking them to the top of the bridge so the young falcons would concentrate on eating while they were drying off.” 

As he scaled the bridge to release the juveniles, the adult falcons recognized their offspring from on high and became aggressive toward him; Mr. Koppie took this behavior as an excellent sign that the young birds were still being defended by their parents, and that the adults would continue to attend to their offspring’s needs. 

Thus, a successful release, and it seemed that all was well with the young falcons – with a little luck they would be airborne again in a day or two, this time for good. However, heavy thunderstorms were forecast over the next few days and strong winds could have dashed hopes for the falcons’ survival. Division of Fish & Wildlife biologist Anthony Gonzon was determined to monitor the birds in the storms’ aftermath. Arriving at St. Georges Bridge in the early morning Friday, June 14, he immediately located one of the adult peregrines on the catwalk beneath the bridge. Panning across the arches, he spotted one of the juveniles, a poignant sighting, Mr. Gonzon recalled: “At the very least, one of the young birds had survived the storms, and better yet, it could fly!” 

Gonzon spent more time combing the horizon for the second juvenile rescue. During that time, the other adult falcon flew in with food for the first juvenile and tried to coax it off the crossbeam of the arch where it was first observed. The young bird made a couple of attempts to take flight, but elected to stay put and wait for the adult to deliver its food. When the adult landed, the young falcon quickly ran to it, stole the carcass of a bird away and made a fast break for cover. 

“But there was still no sign of the second juvenile,” Mr. Gonzon recalled. Time and circumstances conspired against a sighting when, suddenly, on the north bank of the canal, he saw both adult falcons, clearly agitated and diving at some unseen threat. “A quick look through a spotting scope and there it was – the second peregrine fledgling! The parents obviously had been protecting her. Although she still had a little down on her head, she could fly, and fly well enough to perch on a dead tree along the canal.” The peregrine parents successfully drove off whatever threat they had detected, and the young bird flew back to the catwalk under the bridge, capping a restoration success. And evidence, according to Mr. Gonzon, “that Delaware’s peregrine falcon population had grown by two!” 

“We work hard to reunite young birds of prey with their parents or a foster family whenever we can,” said Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research. “Young birds of prey have so much to learn from the adults – how to hunt, how to behave socially, where to roost, etc. We are delighted that these two falcons can continue to grow up in the wild.”

Photo credits: Top, Russ Carlson. Bottom: USFWS/Craig Koppie.

Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 250


National Fishing Week starts; anglers invited to fish for free in Delaware waters June 8 & 9

DOVER (May 31, 2013) – Been thinking of casting a line into a nearby stream or daydreaming about a sunny afternoon at the beach with your surf rod, but just haven’t gotten around to purchasing your 2013 Delaware fishing license yet? Then you’ve got an angler’s good luck already for catching the opportunity to try fishing for free for a couple of days, thanks to DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife.

To celebrate National Fishing Week, June 1-9, the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife invites you to test your favorite Delaware waters for a taste of this year’s fishing, clamming and crabbing seasons by offering free fishing days on Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9. On these two days, anyone may fish the state’s waters without a fishing license.

Anglers are reminded that even though they don’t need a license on those two days, if they intend to fish June 8 or 9, they are still required to obtain a free Fisherman Identification Network (F.I.N.) number. A free F.I.N. number can be obtained online at www.delaware-fin.com or by calling 1-800-432-9228. Anglers also are required to comply with Delaware’s fishing regulations, including size and daily catch limits. 

National Fishing Week festivities will also include DNREC’s 27th Annual Youth Fishing Tournament from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 8. Sponsored by the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Enforcement Section, the event will take place at a pond in each county: Ingrams Pond in Millsboro, Wyoming Pond in Wyoming’s Town Park and the dog training area at Lums Pond State Park in Bear. 

The Youth Fishing Tournament is part of Delaware’s Children in Nature Initiative, a statewide effort to improve environmental literacy in Delaware, create opportunities for children to participate in enriching outdoor experiences, combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles. Delaware’s multi-agency initiative, which partners state and federal agencies with community organizations, is part of the national No Child Left Inside program. 

With the exception of this one weekend, resident and non-resident anglers from the ages of 16 through 64 who fish, crab or clam in any Delaware waters – including ponds, impoundments, streams, rivers, bays and ocean – are required to purchase a fishing license. Delaware residents 65 or older and both residents and non-residents under age 16 do not have to purchase a license. Licenses are required for non-residents age 65 and older. 

Fishing licenses for Delaware residents cost $8.50, while non-residents pay $20 a year or $12.50 for a seven-day license. Licenses may be purchased online, at DNREC’s Richardson and Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, or at license agents located in sporting goods stores, hardware stores, bait and tackle shops and other businesses throughout the state.

The 2013 Fishing Guide, which includes complete details on fishing regulations, licensing, the F.I.N. program and exemptions, is also available from the DNREC Dover office, licensing agents statewide and on the Division of Fish and Wildlife website.  

To purchase a Delaware fishing license online, view the Fishing Guide, or for more information on fishing licenses, please visit the DNREC Fisheries homepage at www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Fisheries.aspx. For more information, please call 302-739-9918.

Contact: JoAnna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 221


DNREC Falcon Cam update: Four chicks, all fit and outfitted with bands for future flight and fate

The 2013 DNREC Wilmington Falcon Cam chicks sporting new bands - Photo: Craig Koppie/US Fish & Wildlife ServiceWILMINGTON (May 15, 2013) – The four peregrine falcon chicks given starring roles on the DNREC Falcon Cam  – sponsored by the Delaware Ornithological Society and DuPont’s Clear Into the Future initiative – were outfitted for their own ornithological future this week. They were banded Tuesday by the US Fish & Wildlife Service so as to enable the gathering of biological and biographical data from them as they spread their wings into adulthood.

USFWS raptor biologist Craig Koppie gave the chicks colorful leg-bands Tuesday that will further knowledge about the regional peregrine population. Resightings of banded birds has provided valuable information on their movements, ancestry and adaptability to changing environments. “This data becomes even more important when we consider that the peregrine, once an endangered species, now inhabits more urban and suburban areas than natural cliff sites where it once resided,” said DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife biologist Anthony Gonzon. “Resightings of these colored and numbered bands help us to identify individual birds that may have travelled several hundred miles from their birthplaces to new nesting locations.”

The fourth chick born from this year’s clutch to Red Girl, the female adult peregrine on the DNREC Falcon Cam, is on the right in the photo – and is the only chick not yet displaying colorful downy feathers. The chick hatched more than two days after its siblings. Facing a perilous possibility of survival because of its late arrival, the chick was removed from the nest box on the 19th floor of the Brandywine Building by Mr. Koppie, nurtured by him for two weeks, then returned to the nest box where it has since thrived.

CONTACT:  Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902, or Bill Stewart, Delaware Ornithological Society, email: bird-del@earthlink.net

Photo: USFWS/Craig Koppie

Vol. 43, No. 197