District Digest News Stories

Corps gets batty over endangered species

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published Feb. 4, 2015
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2015) –   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center hosted a bat conference Jan. 28-29 at the Nashville District Headquarters for Corps districts and other federal agencies to discuss bat endangered species.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2015) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center hosted a bat conference Jan. 28-29 at the Nashville District Headquarters for Corps districts and other federal agencies to discuss bat endangered species.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2015) –   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center hosted a bat conference Jan. 28-29 at the Nashville District Headquarters for Corps districts and other federal agencies to discuss bat endangered species.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2015) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center hosted a bat conference Jan. 28-29 at the Nashville District Headquarters for Corps districts and other federal agencies to discuss bat endangered species.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2015) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center hosted a bat conference Jan. 28-29 at the Nashville District Headquarters for Corps districts, division, Institute of Water Research and other federal agencies to discuss bat endangered species.
 
The two-day event was mainly called because in October 2013 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection for the northern long-eared bat, which is located in 39 states throughout Corps districts. Many bat populations located on Corps of Engineers land throughout the eastern United States have been rapidly declining in recent years because of a disease called, "white nose syndrome."
  
Corps officials say this newly discovered fungus is causing the death of hibernating bats throughout Corps districts.  The Northeast has seen the greatest declines, but WNS has spread to more southern states in the last few years.

 According to the Service, the disease causes wing scarring and forces bats to use up stored fat during hibernation.  Although not all infected bats succumb to the disease, mortality rates are extremely high. 
 
Jeff DeFosse, recreation & environment stewardship manager, for the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, said the conference was an information meeting that provided definitive insight for how agencies can work together.
 
The northern long-eared bat is found in the United States from Maine to North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast, westward to eastern Oklahoma and north through the Dakotas, reaching into eastern Montana and Wyoming. In some caves in the Northeast, northern long-eared bat populations have declined by up to 99 percent. White-nose syndrome or the fungus causing the disease is found in much of the northern long-eared bat's range.

 
“This is an important meeting that helps us plan for the future,” said DeFosse. “We will take all this information we have gathered and brief the division and headquarters and share it with districts on the issues and ideas we discussed here.” 
 

According to the Service, the disease is named for the white fungus evident on the muzzles and wings of affected bats.  The disease has spread to 22 states and five Canadian provinces. The pathogenic fungus, which biologists believe was introduced from Europe, grows on the noses and wings of hibernating bats and appears to cause severe dehydration, disruption of crucial electrolyte levels, and frequent arousal from hibernation, leading to premature depletion of fat reserves. Scientists estimate nearly 7 million bats have died, and the disease has affected seven bat species.
 
“One of the main reasons for this workshop is to be proactive and talk about the impact of this listing,” said Eric Britzke, a research wildlife biologist from the ERDC in Vicksburg, Miss. “We wanted to get as many folks from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies that would be impacted by this,” he said. 
 
Britzke is a bat expert and has studied them for 20 years. He said his role in the workshop was to provide species ecology, natural history and give insight to the Corps how districts can assist with the proposed Endangered Species Act protection.
 
“We have various types of bats on Corps property in Tennessee and Kentucky,” said Kim Franklin, a biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District. “Knowing the correct procedures on how to protect these bats on our Corps properties while carrying out our necessary activities is a major concern for us,” said Franklin.

 
Franklin said, “Despite negative typecasts, bats are important to us for pest control and help balance the ecosystem,” said Franklin, “Bats eat lots of mosquitoes and are efficient predators of insects, and in other areas they pollinate flowers and disperse the seeds of hundreds of plants.”

 
The district’s effort has united experts to collaborate idea on ideas and solutions how to share information and seek measures to address white-nose syndrome and bat conservation.

 
According to the Service, an endangered designation indicates a species is currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range; a threatened designation means a species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. The act and the Service's implementing regulations prohibit take, including harming, harassing and killing, of endangered and threatened species unless otherwise permitted.
 
For species listed as threatened, the Service may issue a rule to provide protections that are deemed necessary and advisable for conservation of the species. This rule ensures private landowners and citizens abide by regulations
 
Britzke said colonies of the northern long-eared bat affected by white-nose syndrome have in many cases experienced almost 90 percent mortality. Protection for the bats is the result of the proposed listing and hopefully will save the species and help districts better manage containment areas.

 
In Tennessee, the Fort Campbell military base was the first military installation nearby to report the white nose syndrome within its caves and boundaries, according to Wildlife Program Manager Gene Zirkle. 
 
He said 2012 was the first sighting of White Nose Syndrome on Fort Campbell and the cave where the affected bats live is now gated, locked and closed to the general public. The only access is done by wildlife specialists."

The Service offers the following advice to help prevent the spread of disease. Cavers should observe all cave closures and advisories and avoid caves, mines or passages containing hibernating bats to minimize disturbance to the animals.

 
All caves on Corps lands have been closed to the public.  Properly decontamination of equipment is also very important. Guidelines are available on the website designated to the disease—www.whitenosesyndrome.org.  

 
According to Britzke, there is no easy fix to stopping the spread of white nose syndrome.

 
“We must keep learning how we can manage our resources and the most important factor is distributing the information covered at the workshop out to districts that did not attend and pass it to the projects,” said Britzke.

Franklin said awareness of the disease and knowing where the bats are is the first step to slowing and maybe even stopping the spread of white nose syndrome.

 
For more information on White Nose Syndrome visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website at www.whitenosesyndrome.org

 
The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)