More Rattlesnake Fungus

vt rattlesnake studyNashville Public Radio reports that two timber rattlesnakes with heads deformed from a fungus have been found in Tennessee. It’s unclear who the wildlife biologists who are reporting the fungus are (state? university?), but the story quotes Ed Carter, head of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and TWRA biologist Brian Flock.

Read the Nashville Public Radio story here.
A condensed version of the story was distributed by the Associated Press. Read it on the WBIR website, here.

The rattlesnake fungus has devastated the rattlesnake population in neighboring New Hampshire, so the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife isn’t waiting around to find out what’s going on with its own rattlesnakes, which are only found in one area in the western part of the state.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department rattlesnake project leader Doug Blodgett says in a department press release that lesions have been found in rattlesnakes last year and in several other species of snakes in the state.

Read the Vermont Fish and Wildlife press release here.

Photo: Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologist Doug Blodgett carefully examines a timber rattlesnake icheck it for signs of snake fungal disease. Photo by Tom Rogers, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Man-Made Bat Cave Aims to Aid WNS Bats

The bat cave created by The Nature Conservancy chapter in Tennessee can be disinfected after each hibernation season, which may offer some bats a refuge from white nose syndrome (WNS). According to the Leaf Chronicle, the cave cost $300,000, which was raised entirely from private funds.

The article also notes that the cave was built near an existing bat hibernation site.

Lots of details in the Leaf Chronicle article. Read it here.
Read a shorter article in Popular Science, here.
The Nature Conservancy press release is here.
A Nature Conservancy interview with project leader Cory Holliday, here.

What the two reported articles don’t say is that the cave is an answer to a common question about possible solutions for white nose syndrome: Why don’t you just disinfect the cave with an anti-fungal? (Any doubts that this is common? See the comments after the articles.) The short answer is that a cave is a complex ecosystem and fungi play an important role. So far there isn’t a way to kill just the WNS fungus without killing other fungi in the cave.

The artificial cave doesn’t have an ecosystem, so it can be sterilized when the bats leave in the spring. This should prevent healthy bats from be infected from fungi in the cave the following winter, perhaps lessening the virulence in that cave.

It’s pricey, time-consuming and takes some of the wildness away from the bats, but compared to having wildlife rehabilitators raise a “Noah’s ark” population (which has been discussed at times with some seriousness, and even tried with Virginia big-eared bats), it’s likely cheaper, easier and less disruptive.

…And, this just in: An Associated Press story (here in the San Francisco Chronicle) does get into some of these details. Read it here.

Photo: View of the artificial bat cave, with the human entrance below and the bat entrance above. Photo credit: © Cory Holliday, The Nature Conservancy

WNS in Gray Bats

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced yesterday that, for the first time, white nose syndrome has been documented in the endangered gray bat.

The USFWS press release says:

“The documented spread of WNS on gray bats is devastating news. This species was well on the road to recovery, and confirmation of the disease is great cause for concern. Because gray bats hibernate together in colonies that number in the hundreds of thousands, WNS could expand exponentially across the range of the species,” said Paul McKenzie, Missouri Endangered Species Coordinator for the Service. “The confirmation of WNS in gray bats is also alarming because guano from the species is an important source of energy for many cave ecosystems and there are numerous cave-adapted species that could be adversely impacted by their loss.”


Also according to the release, the afflicted bats were found in Hawkins and Montgomery counties in Tennessee during two separate winter surveillance trips, conducted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Read the USFWS press release here.

Photo: Photos of gray bats with white-nose syndrome from Hawkings and Montgomery counties, Tennessee, courtesy USFWS



Tool: Infrared Monitoring

Thermal image of wolf with a spot mimicing mangeIn a recent study on the origins of the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats, the bats in the study were monitored with infrared cameras. This allowed the researchers to see when the bats were rousing (they need to warm up first).

Read a mention of the infrared monitoring in this Associated Press story on the Yahoo News site.
You can also find the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper here, but you need a subscription or to pay a fee to read the whole paper.

A more common use for infrared imaging has been for wildlife surveys. For example, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has used thermal imaging to survey the ratio of bucks to does and does to fawns for deer management. But this technology can do more.

Scientists are using infrared thermal imaging cameras to detect sarcoptic mange in Yellowstone wolves. The patches of bare skin caused this form of scabies stress the animal because the calories used up to compensate for the heat loss can doom the animal.

Read an article on an early stage of the study in the Billings Gazette.
Read information from the US Geological Survey, here.
And a tip of the hat to Wired Magazine, which dedicated a full page to the story in its May 2012 issue. (Sorry, no direct link because the May issue wasn’t online when this was posted.)

While the Billings Gazette article describes the scientists renting a $40,000 camera, in the Wired Magazine update, $4,000-$5,000 per camera is the price mentioned. There seem to be a lot of possibilities for using infrared thermal imaging in wildlife management that go beyond surveys.

Photo: Thermal image of a wolf with a small bald spot on its rear leg, from the initial test of concept. Courtesy of the US Geological Survey.

5 State Biologists Are USFWS Recovery Champions

Christine Kelly

Every year the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) singles out its employees and partners who have made a difference in the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals. Yesterday the service recognized 17 individuals and organizations as 2011 Recovery Champions. Among that group were five state biologists who either were recognized as individuals or as part of a team.

The state wildlife biologists who were recognized as Recovery Champions for 2011 are:

David Lincicome, Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation

David Lincicome

Jeff Boechler, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, as part of the Clackamas River Basin Bull Trout Team, Oregon
David Lincicome,Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Nashville, Tennessee, for leading the Tennessee Natural Heritage and Natural Areas Programs in restoring endangered and threatened plants such as Eggert’s sunflower and the Tennessee purple coneflower
Christine Kelly, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, for aiding the endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel with launch poles to help the animals cross a road
Brian Kurzel, Colorado Natural Areas Program and Susan Spackman-Panjabi, Colorado Natural Heritage Program as part of the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative

Read more about their accomplishments in the USFWS press release announcing the awards, here.

Photo credits. The photo of Chris Kelly is by G Peeples. The photo of David Lincicome is by R. McCoy. Both used courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

More States Turning to Night Hunting for Problem Animals

North Carolina, Arizona and Tennessee are among the states that are allowing night hunting for problem species like feral swine, coyotes and mountain lions when existing hunting practices fail to reduce populations, says an article in USA Today.

Night hunting is allowed in 42 states, the article says, quoting data from the Indiana-based National Predator Hunters Association.

In the article, a coyote coexistence advocate is quoted as saying that hunting does little to reduce population levels of the fecund coyote. That’s a sentiment shared by many wildlife managers was well, regarding both coyotes and feral swine.

Read the USA Today article here.
PDF article on feral swine in New Hampshire Fish and Game’s magazine.

Photo: Feral swine piglet. If only they were all this cute. By Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Tennessee’s War on Wild Hogs Not for Civilians

What’s the best way to get rid of an invasive species that is clever, dangerous and tastes pretty good? In the case of wild hogs in Tennessee, one strategy was not to put any limits on hunting the animals. Hunters were allowed, even encouraged, to hunt wild hogs at any time of year and kill as many as they would like.

Earlier this year, however, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency rethought that strategy. It seems that instead of eliminating hogs in the state, the range of the animals was growing as enthusiastic hunters transported and released hogs in new locations.

Now the hogs are considered a nuisance species, and while landowners can kill wild hogs causing property damage on their land, the hogs can’t legally be hunted by the average citizen. Read the press release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announcing the change, here.

This week The Tennessean reports that not everyone likes the change. While the state’s largest hunting organization supports the new designation, the article reports, another group, the Tennessee Hunters Alliance, has been formed to protest the new change.

Read the article in The Tennessean, with the history of the move, here.

 Photo: A feral swine piglet. By Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service