Tag Archives: ecological services

A Blue Whale-sized Milestone

Cleanup workers at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Southern New Jersey have been busy of late, hauling garbage out of the marshes that line a 22-mile stretch of coastline near Atlantic City. The debris was dumped there when Hurricane Sandy made landfall at the refuge’s doorstep, sweeping up all manner of jetsam from the densely populated surrounding area and depositing it, as it were, on the front porch.

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Crews have been working through brutally cold days this winter to complete the cleanup in Brick Township. When the cleanup ends,the Service will begin restoring the marshes, making them a stronger front line protecting coastal communities during future storms.

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas.  (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas. (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

As of early March, about 200 tons of debris—roughly the equivalent of a blue whale in sheer mass—have been removed, including boats, docks, remains of buildings, barrels, drums and fuel tanks, some of which contained contaminants.

“Lands protected as a part of Forsythe Refuge buffered inland areas from the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy…we will clean and restore this vibrant and resilient stretch of coast to sustain wildlife and protect the people of New Jersey in the future,” said Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig.

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Click here to read about how and where the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working to restore natural areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. You can also view photos of cleanup projects here.

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats which are actively managed for migratory birds.

Bat Bunker #1 on a door surrounded by snow.

The war on white-nose syndrome: Refuge uses bunkers to fight bat disease

several people in different uniforms stand in front of a cave with snow around it

Biologists from federal and state agencies and universities work to find a cure for white-nose syndrome. Credit: Marvin Moriarty/USFWS

Biologists from across the Northeast are working tirelessly to find a way to keep white-nose syndrome from killing millions of bats.

A bat hangs upside down and has a white substance on its snout.

This little brown bat has white-nose syndrome. Credit: Marvin Moriarty/USFWS

The disease, caused by a fungus that appears on the face and other areas, affects hibernating bats.

Early detection methods using DNA analysis are some of the latest strides researchers have made to control the disease. Learn more from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bat Bunker #1 on a door surrounded by snow.

Even when outside temperatures were 30 below, temperatures in the bunker were 37-39 F. Credit: Steve Agius/USFWS

Meanwhile, up in northern Maine, Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge experimented with using former cold war bunkers as safe artificial hibernacula. Read Assistant Refuge Manager Steve Agius’ blog about the project.

These structures provided surfaces for bats to cling to. Credit: Marvin Moriarty/USFWS

These structures provided surfaces for bats to cling to. Credit: Steve Agius/USFWS

A grassy field covers a bunker.

Cold war era bunkers at the former Loring Air Force Base were tested for their use as an artificial hibernacula. Credit: Steve Agius/USFWS

For more information about white-nose syndrome, visit http://whitenosesyndrome.org

Needed: Batman-proof bat caves

Schrading - Head Shot

Today you’re hearing from Eric Schrading, a biologist in our New Jersey Field Office. Read more from Eric.

Sure, some people either don’t understand or don’t like bats.

They make up fearful stories about bats and their habits and associate them with villainous creatures such as vampires. But let’s lay down some facts about these truly unique and wonderful creatures.

Bats are the world’s only flying mammals. They can consume nearly one-third their body weight of insects in less than half an hour (that’s a lot of agricultural and forest pests, mosquitoes, and stink bugs), and they are also one of the only animals that are associated with one of America’s most popular superheroes: Batman.

I’m not here to blog about the pros and falsified cons of bats, but I do want to tell you about Batman-proof bat caves. First I have to tell you a little about bat ecology. Bats spend their springs and summers in forests, streams and fields foraging on insects. But when it gets cold in the winter, and their insect diet disappears, some bat species take their party south, and others begin a long hibernation in caves and mines.

Indiana bats. Credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

Indiana bats. Credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

In New Jersey, these hibernation spots are more often in mines. A variety of iron ore mines in the state were constructed in the late 1700s for the Revolutionary War and for strengthening a young nation, and when they were abandoned, the mines began providing winter refuge for a variety of bats, including the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). These bats and others survive the winter by gathering in large numbers in these mines to take advantage of stable temperatures and humidity.

Now, here’s where Batman comes in.

Batman, along with other humans (cavers, spelunkers, inquisitive teenagers or explorers), enjoys searching and spending time in caves and mines, whether to hide the Batmobile or to check out stalactites and stalagmites.

A gated cave in New Jersey. Credit: USFWS/Eric Schrading

A gated cave in New Jersey. Credit: USFWS/Eric Schrading

The problem is that any disturbance to bats during their hibernation can wake them up. Bats during hibernation operate on a very thin line between survival and death. Any disturbance, no matter how quiet Batman is — even if he’s just using his bat-light — can wake bats up, causing them to use valuable energy reserves (remember, no food available all winter long). Just one disturbance can cause them to burn up a month’s worth of fat reserves. This may be the difference between surviving the winter… or not.

Some mines need protection to provide much-needed hibernacula or winter refuge for lots of bats. So wildlife agencies, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners, sometimes cover the mine or cave opening. This keeps Batman out (sorry Batman, but as a wealthy superhero, you have other options), but how do you allow bats to move in and out?

WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME AND CAVESThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with our partners to help make sure that Batman (and other cave explorers and researchers) aren’t inadvertently making the problem worse by spreading the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.

We have developed decontamination protocols to reduce the risk of transporting the fungus on our shoes, clothing and gear, and some areas have closed caves and mines to protect bats. It’s important for everyone (including Batman) to contact their local land management agency before visiting caves and mines to make sure they are open for exploration. More

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with our partners to help make sure that Batman (and other cave explorers and researchers) aren’t inadvertently making the problem worse by spreading the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.

We have developed decontamination protocols to reduce the risk of transporting the fungus on our shoes, clothing and gear, and some areas have closed caves and mines to protect bats. It’s important for everyone (including Batman) to contact their local land management agency before visiting caves and mines to make sure they are open for exploration. More

The answer is large bars welded together in the form of a gate. Yes, a bat gate… sufficient enough to keep Batman out (with his significant strength and utility belt that includes sawzalls), but with enough openings to allow bats to come and go and to allow natural temperature and humidity in the mine or cave.

So there you have it, a bat gate… Keeps Batman out, but allows the bats to come and go as they wish.

These projects are even more important now that many bat species are being decimated by white-nose syndrome at many of these hibernacula sites. This fungal disease has killed more than 5.7 million bats mostly at hibernacula sites in more than 19 states and four Canadian provinces – making the importance of reducing any mortality associated with Batman even more important.

Read another post on gating caves in West Virginia.