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 Post subject: Illness strikes bats in Morris County (Hibernia Mine)
PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 12:39 pm 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
Illness strikes bats in Morris
Sick mammals found in Denville, Rockaway Twp.; no human risk

By Rob Jennings • Daily Record • January 24, 2009

ROCKAWAY TWP. -- An illness not seen before in New Jersey is believed to be afflicting local bats, prompting the winged mammals to leave hibernation and search for food, state and local officials said Friday.

Three brown bats -- two recovered in Rockaway Township and one in Denville -- were sent to the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin and tentatively diagnosed with White Nose Syndrome, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

White Nose Syndrome, first diagnosed in New York in 2006, causes bats to lose stored body fat. The disease drew its name from the white, powdery fungus that grows on the bat's muzzle, said DEP principal zoologist Mick Valent.

Valent visited Rockaway Township's Hibernia Mine -- New Jersey's largest-known bat hibernaculum -- last week. In an interview Friday, he said there is no indication of the disease posing any health risk to people or pets.

"There is nothing to be concerned about, from a human health standpoint," Valent said.

Still, the diagnosis of an unfamiliar and somewhat mysterious ailment -- Valent acknowledged that "a lot is unknown" about White Nose Syndrome -- is prompting local concern.

Diane Trocchio, Rockaway Township's health and welfare director, confirmed that the Catherine A. Dwyer Elementary School was evacuated last week after a bat was seen flying inside the building. The decision was made by school officials "out of an abundance of caution," she said. The K-8 district acknowledged the incident Friday.

Rockaway Township is known for its widespread bat colonies. The Hibernia Mine, described by Valent as approximately 8 feet high by 10 feet wide and going a half-mile into the mountain, houses about 30,000 bats in its main section.

Workers recently recovered a dead bat on the ground in Rockaway Township, Valent said, and captured two others -- on a house porch in Denville and near a Rockaway Township business -- that were alive but clearly ill.

Both later died, he said. Remains of all three were sent for testing, which resulted in the preliminary diagnosis of White Nose Syndrome.

"There are certain things we look for -- bats that are dehydrated and appear underweight," Valent said, in outlining symptoms associated with the illness.

"Bats will roost in parts of the mine where they don't typically roost -- toward the front, where it's cold. Some bats are just totally unresponsive to (the human) presence," he said.

White Nose Syndrome was first identified near Albany, N.Y., three years ago, Valent said.

"Nobody, at the time, knew what it was. They were just seeing unusual activity by bats, resulting in a lot of the bats dying," Valent said,

Subsequent findings of diseased bats were reported in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

"Nobody is completely sure what is causing this," Valent said.

Valent emphasized that residents should not be worried about their health.

"There have been thousands of people in the affected sites since this was first discovered, and there were no reported illnesses," Valent said.

In addition to both little and big brown bats, species such as the northern long-eared bat and the endangered Indiana bat can be found at the Hibernia Mine and a smaller bat cave in Mount Hope, DEP spokeswoman Darlene Yuhas said.
A brown bat shows symptoms of hite Nose Syndrom, which causes a loss of stored body fat.


Three brown bats found in Rockaway Township and in Denville have been tentatively diagnosed with White Nose Syndrome, an unfamiliar and somewhat mysterious ailment. There is no indication it poses any health risk to people or pets, but 'a lot is unknown,' an expert said. Catherine A. Dwyer Elementary School was evacuated last week after a bat flew inside the building.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:57 pm 
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Location: Winnemucca, NV
How sad. We can only hope the bats that do survive grow hardy enough to avoid getting sick like this in the future. It is sort of like a black plague for bats. You can suppose almost any species can acquire a disease that can wipe entire populations out. The very forests in which are local iron mines were first excavated were filled with massive American Chestnut trees -- since wiped entirely clean. Being immersed under towering trees like these, you probably wouldn't have even felt like you were in the Highlands region (as we know it).

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:00 pm 
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Yeah I read about this, I was sorry to hear about the white nose syndrome that the bats acquired from the hibernia mine. I'm glad that you posted this up Greg :)


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