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Volunteers to check on N.J. bat numbers

TRENTON, N.J., June 5 (UPI) -- A New Jersey wildlife group plans to check on the state's bat population, believed to be hit hard by white-nose syndrome.

Volunteers for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation have been counting bats for several years. This year, the count is expected to bring bad news, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported.

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"We ask our volunteers each year to go to a known bat roost at least twice between now and early August and count them as the bats fly out in the evening," Maria Grace of Conserve Wildlife said. "This year, we're telling people that not seeing bats in those roosts is just as important to note. We'll know then how significant the die-off is due to white-nose syndrome."

White-nose syndrome, a fungus that grows on bat snouts, was first reported in New York and has spread to at least eight other states. It hit New Jersey in January.

A check on the Hibernia Mine, the state's largest bat hibernating spot, showed a 95 percent drop in numbers.

Scientists are unsure how white-nose syndrome kills. Infected bats become active when they should be hibernating, possibly freezing to death or using up fat reserves they need in the spring.

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