White-nose syndrome ravaging cave bat populations

MADISON, WI - Winter cave and mine surveys in 2018 show that white-nose syndrome continues to ravage Wisconsin's cave bats, and the steep loss of these beneficial insect-eaters is likely to be seen this summer in nighttime skies, state endangered resources officials say.
"We're still seeing new sites with infection and bigger declines in the numbers of bats we're surveying in winter," said J. Paul White, Wisconsin Bat Program lead with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Pepin County was added to the list of those with hibernacula infected with the disease.
White and other Wisconsin conservation biologists did find some silver linings in their 2018 winter surveys, and federal and university research DNR is assisting with are showing promise and progress in developing WNS vaccines and treatments, White said.
"These efforts can potentially help our remaining bats and also bats in other states where the disease has not yet been detected," he said.
All 60 sites visited in winter 2018 were infected and at those sites, DNR conservation biologists found a 99 percent decrease from historic averages at the first documented infection site, a 92 percent drop at sites in their fourth year of infection and an 85 percent drop at sites in their third year of infection. Twenty-five of the 28 counties with known bat hibernacula now have WNS or the fungus that causes it.
Severe decreases in populations of hibernating bats are also showing up in the summer nighttime surveys volunteers conduct. For example, the average decline in summer roost populations across the state in 2017 was 80 percent. More information on summer survey results area available in the Wisconsin Bat Program newsletter Echolocator.
White, a conservation biologist with the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program, expects more places to notice a lack of bats this summer.
"There are some pockets of Wisconsin that have experienced the declines already," he said. "People are telling us they used to have hundreds of bats in their area at night in the summer, and now, nothing."
White-nose syndrome does not affect people or other animal species, but causes hibernating bats to frequently wake, depleting their energy and causing them to die from starvation, dehydration or exposure to the elements. Since the discovery of white-nose syndrome in 2006 in New York, more than 6 million bats have died and the disease has spread to 32 states, says Owen Boyle, species management section chief for the NHC program.
While there has been some evidence of bat populations starting to come back on the East Coast, it's too early to tell in Wisconsin, Boyle says. DNR conservation biologists and research partners banded more than 100 bats this winter to be able to keep tabs on them in coming years. The biologists want to understand how many bats survive, if some hibernation sites have better survival rates than others and if surviving bats moved to new hibernation sites, and other information that might help guide bat recovery efforts.
Bats play an important role in Wisconsin's ecosystems and are voracious insect eaters. A 2011 North American study estimated that bats save Wisconsin's agriculture industry between $658 million to $1.5 billion annually in pesticide costs. University of Wisconsin research now underway analyzing bat guano collected at sites across Wisconsin confirms that bats consumed 17 distinct types of mosquitoes, including nine species known to carry West Nile virus.
"These animals continue to impress and amaze me, whether it's through their longevity or diversity of diet," White says. "I'm hopeful that they will continue to amaze by being able to persist against insurmountable odds."
DNR conservation biologists continue to assist federal and university research partners pressing to find WNS treatments and vaccines, White says. There is good news on those and other fronts including:
* Three of the nine bats found in the Grant County site where white-nose syndrome was first detected in 2014 were juveniles, indicating some natural reproduction is still taking place.
* A technique to administer vaccines to bats to prevent white-nose syndrome infections is showing promise and DNR bat biologists will continue assisting the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Wisconsin researchers in refining the method this summer.
* A treatment using ultra-violet light is showing promise in killing the fungus causing white-nose syndrome in bats. DNR bat biologists have continued to work with scientists at the U.S. Forest Service in Madison and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania on the study.
People who want to help cave bats surviving white-nose syndrome are encouraged to build and install a bat house following instructions on the DNR website, to participate in summer bat counts, to donate to the Endangered Resources Fund and to volunteer at the Wisconsin Bat Festival Aug. 25, in Ashland.
Bat houses provide a warm, protected place for mother bats to care for their young, and they can provide helpful stop-over sites in the spring as bats are emerging from their winter hibernation sites and moving toward their summer roosts, and in the fall, as bats move from their summer roosts to their hibernation sites. Find a list of needed supplies, research-based instructions on construction and placement of bat homes, and videos, on dnr.wi.gov and search "bat house."
People are encouraged to participate in the Great Wisconsin Bat Count on June 1-3. Volunteers identify bat roosts and sit outside the roost entrance in the evening to count the bats as they emerge just after sunset, and for the next 40 minutes or so. To learn more and enter your counts, search "Wisconsin Bat Program" online.
People wanting to donate to DNR's Wisconsin Bat Program to help continue winter surveys and banding of bats, summer habitat research, and research into WNS prevention and treatment can donate online to the Endangered Resources Fund. All donations are matched dollar-for-dollar and are tax deductible. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search "NHC" and click on "donate." Select "bats" from the special funds drop down menu.
Finally, help raise awareness of bats and their importance by volunteering at the 2018 Wisconsin Bat Festival set for Aug. 25, at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland. Contact Jennifer Redell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about volunteering.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


WisCorps Open House set in La Crosse on Saturday

WisCorps is hosting an Open House at the Myrick Park Center and in Myrick Park on Saturday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This free event includes nature programs, facility tours, garden tours, a scavenger hunt, bingo, door prizes, healthy snacks, a chance to drive an Action Trackchair and the opportunity to learn about all of WisCorps’ programs.
All ages, abilities and families are welcome to participate in all activities. WisCorps is an inclusive, non-profit youth development organization dedicated to conservation, education and community.  
For more information, contact Willie Bittner, Operations Director,  at 608-782-2494, or 608-799-2567, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mississippi River Flooding could hamper boat access

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Winona District is urging boaters to take precautions in the coming days regarding flooding on the Mississippi River.
Boaters should be vigilant as flood waters will have significantly changed conditions at traditional access, camping and day-use sites. Excessive current, turbid water, and submerged and floating hazards should be expected in the river over the coming days.
Boaters should also be prepared to locate alternative boat ramps to access the Mississippi River between Wabasha, MN, and Trempealeau, WI, as ramps may be closed due to flooding.  Landings are closed when water levels submerse the ramp and/or dock, cover any portion that is asphalt, or obscure the concrete curbing from view. Refuge personnel are constantly evaluating river conditions to determine when refuge boat ramps can be opened.
The following boat landings are currently closed:
* Halfmoon and the access road located near Kellogg, MN.
* Verchota and McNally on the Prairie Island Dike near Minnesota City, MN.
* Mertes’ Slough on Hwy 54/43 near Winona, MN.
Questions about the availability of boat ramps can be addressed by calling the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge at 507-454-7351.
 
SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Horicon Marsh 21st annual Bird Festival on tap May 10-14

HORICON, WI - Bird enthusiasts can experience the sights, sounds and natural beauty of birds in peak spring migration as the Horicon Marsh Bird Club hosts the 21st annual Bird Festival at Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center from May 10-14.
From the backyard birder to the world traveler, four days of adventure await by foot, boat, bus and bicycle at Horicon Marsh, one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States. The Horicon Marsh Bird Festival is the oldest bird festival in Wisconsin.
Highlights of this year's Bird Festival include a keynote speech from birder and humorist Al Batt; "Mom and Me, Birding Together," a beginner's guide to birding (and a great way to spend some time with mom on Mother's Day) and bird banding demonstrations by Dr. Sheldon Cooper from UW-Oshkosh.
The Birding by Bicycle guided tour invites birders to peddle their way through the area. A Birdy Scavenger Hunt offers a unique way to explore the Marsh's scenic views, sounds and enjoyment.
At over 33,000 acres, Horicon Marsh provides habitat for endangered species and is a critical rest stop for thousands of migrating songbirds and waterfowl. It is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance and as Globally and State Important Bird Areas. More than 300 bird species are on the Horicon Marsh checklist.
The festival begins with an Early Bird Bus Tour. Popular favorites include the Hot Spot Birding Bus Tour, Beginners Bird Hike, Birding Adventure Boat Tour, and 20-plus other tours and activities planned by the Horicon Marsh Bird Club.
For the early morning birder, First Light Birding offers a glimpse of the birds at sunrise. At sunset, a Night Sounds Bus Tour is offered. Throughout the festival, the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Marsh Haven Nature Center and Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will be buzzing with interactive displays, programs, and opportunities for viewing birds at their observation areas.
To plan your birding adventure, visit www.horiconmarshbirdclub.com and click on the Bird Festival link for a complete list of events, descriptions and registration information.
For additional registration information, contact Liz Herzmann, DNR wildlife conservation educator, at 920-387-7893.
Many tours require advanced registration and fees, and spaces are filling up fast. Partners for this event include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marsh Haven Nature Center, Horicon Marsh Boat Tours, Friends of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, and Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center.
The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center is located between Horicon and Mayville on Hwy. 28. For a detailed list of all Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center special events, visit the Friends of Horicon Marsh website at www.horiconmarsh.org. For more information regarding Horicon Marsh education programs, contact Herzmann.
 
SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

May is Minnesota Arbor Month

To help celebrate Arbor Month, the Department of Natural Resources has created three short and fun videos that demonstrate how to plant, water, and mulch trees.
Planting trees is the easiest and most natural way to keep water clean.
“We Minnesotans can thank trees for the clean water we drink,” said Jennifer Teegarden, forestry outreach specialist. “These new videos show you how to easily plant and care for trees so that they provide clean water for generations to come.”
So how, exactly, do trees keep water clean?
Trees act like giant umbrellas: Trees slow down and guide rain as it falls to the ground, keeping soil and sediment runoff out of rivers and lakes.
Trees act like sponges: Mature trees soak up 25-35 percent of the rainwater that falls on them. In fact, 100 mature trees keep about 140,000 gallons of water out of storm sewers each year.
Trees function as filters: The soil underneath trees traps sediment and pollutants suspended in rainwater. This prevents these contaminants from entering ground and surface waters.
Watch the new videos on the DNR’s Arbor Month webpage, which also includes information about Arbor Month celebrations throughout the state. For more Arbor Month and clean water information, follow @mnforestry on Twitter.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


International Migratory Bird Day celebration set

WisCorps, Coulee Region Audubon Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the City of La Crosse are hosting an International Migratory Bird Day celebration in Myrick Park and at the Myrick Park Center in La Crosse on Saturday May 5, from 6:30 a.m.-noon.  
This entirely free event includes a sunrise birding hike, bird banding demonstration, family-friendly birding walks, Coulee Wildlife Rehab live raptor presentation, bird-themed crafts and games.  
Snacks will be supplied by the People’s Food Co-op.  
All ages, abilities, and families are welcome to participate in all activities. Find the schedule at:  https://lacrossebirdday.wordpress.com/.
This day brings awareness of over 350 migratory bird species, including many that depend on preservation efforts for their survival. International Migratory Bird Day is the largest-known conservation and education event of its kind in the Western Hemisphere with over 500 events now being hosted from South America to Canada. The partnering sponsors have been instrumental in migratory bird protection, monitoring and habitat conservation while educating communities about how they can participate.  
For more information, contact Stephanie Hanna, WisCorps Education Manager, 608-782-2494 or 608-769-5766, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SOURCE: WisCorps
 

Paddle the Mississippi River backwaters

Paddlers are invited to join refuge ranger Ed Lagace on a paddle through the backwaters of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge near Winona, MN in mid-May.  
Join fellow paddlers on Saturday, May 19, at 2 p.m., at the McNally Landing for a two-hour adventure. This paddle is recommended for all experience levels.
McNally Boat Landing is located near Winona, MN on Prairie Island Road between the Lock and Dam 5A spillway and Minnesota City Boat Club.
Pre-registration is required by 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 16, by emailing or calling Lagace at 507-494-6236 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The refuge will provide canoes, paddles and PFDs, or paddlers can bring their own equipment.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service