Threatened bat species seen in New Jersey

- A biology professor and honors student in New Jersey are searching for a way to help save an endangered species of bats.

On an unseasonably warm late-October afternoon, William Paterson University Professor of Biology Lance Risley and his senior honors student Julia MacDonald led a walk in the woods to a pool of water where they netted a couple of bats one night this summer.

"This was a real surprise for us to catch these bats," Risley said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife estimates a European fungus called white-nose syndrome killed more than 6 million bats in the northeast in the last decade.

The species of forest interior bat that Risley and MacDonald captured is called northern long-eared bat, which once flourished in seemingly every wooded area of northern New Jersey. But since white-nose syndrome arrived in the state in 2009, New Jersey's northern long-eared bat population has declined by as much as 99 percent.

"I set up microphones on a tree about 10 feet off the ground and it's connected to a bat detector," MacDonald said.

So when MacDonald identified bat calls from this endangered species in Wayne's High Mountain Park Preserve, Risley suggested they try to net some.

Within a half an hour of arriving at this pool one summer night, they succeeded in netting and tagging two healthy bats with radio transmitters.

For two weeks until those tiny batteries died, Risley and MacDonald tracked the bats to the trees they chose to roost in during the day.

Risley has studied bats for 15 years and now focuses on their summertime habitat.

White-nose syndrome attacks bats in the winter when they burrow underground to hibernate.

While wildlife disease labs work to find a cure, the fungus has now crossed the Mississippi. Researchers detected the first case in Washington State.

"We think it's going to go cross-country and we are really concerned about some species of bats becoming extinct," Risley said.

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