Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Natural Mosquito Control and 'Adopt a Minnow'

DEP to Host ‘Adopt a Minnow’ Event at Hunterdon County 4h Fair as Part of Continued Mosquito Control Efforts - PRESS RELEASE (16/P79)

The Department of Environmental Protection will be providing free minnows to visitors at Hunterdon County 4H & Agricultural Fair at the South County Park in East Amwell and West Amwell townships on Friday, August 26, from 1-6 p.m., as part of the state and counties’ continuing mosquito-control efforts.

The minnows are one of several species of fish that eat mosquito larvae. Nearly 500,000 of these fish have been raised at the Charles O. Hayford State Hatchery in Hackettstown and deployed in water bodies where mosquitos throughout New Jersey thrive. The fish eat the insects that carry dangerous diseases such as West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and, although very unlikely in New Jersey, the Zika virus.

“This first ‘Adopt a Minnow’ program is intended as another way to show the coordinated efforts of our state mosquito control experts and their counterparts across the state at the local and county levels,” said Deputy Commissioner David Glass.

“We wish to reinforce that every resident has a role to play in reducing the mosquito population throughout the state, whether it is through adopting a minnow or removing standing water from your property.”

“Hunterdon County has always been diligent in maintaining mosquito control programs,” said Hunterdon County Freeholder John King. “My peers and I commend our professionals at the Hunterdon County Division of Health for their fine work on confronting mosquito-borne illnesses. The County is continuing our close cooperation with the DEP and taking specific action to protect the public against the Zika virus.”

Participants in the ‘Adopt A Minnow” event will have to review a short checklist on the proper use of the fish in standing water in such places as ornamental ponds and bird baths and then agree to place them in areas on their property only to best help combat mosquitos.

They also will be provided a list of the best ways to avoid being bitten this season by following the 3D’s of mosquito control: Drain the standing water from your property (almost any amount is too much), Dress with long sleeves and pants to cover skin, and Defend by use of repellents. They will also be asked to post on social media pictures of their fish in action with the hashtag #ZapZikaand share it with their friends and neighbors as well as the DEP’s Fish & Wildlife Facebook page at

Five breeds of mosquitofish are raised in Hackettstown for mosquito control; the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas),the freshwater killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), the pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) and the Gambusia Affinis also known as the mosquitofish, for biological control. With Commission funding, the fish are raised at the hatchery and distributed, at no charge, to county mosquito control agencies.

Since its inception in 1991, the Hayford Hatchery has stocked nearly five million mosquitofish in New Jersey. In coordination with the counties, mosquitofish are stocked in places of the greatest attraction to the 63 varieties of mosquitoes which are found in the state. This year, as part of enhanced efforts to reduce the threat of mosquito borne viruses, the hatchery will raise and distribute a record 650,000 mosquitofish, almost triple the number for a normal season, throughout the state.

“Our hatchery provides fish to the entire state to help control the mosquitos in a completely pesticide free way,” said Hackettstown Hatchery Superintendent Craig Lemon. “We work closely with the State Office of Mosquito Control and County Control Agencies to provide an effective biological control method. We are ramping up mosquitofish production as an extra measure of safety for this year to address not only the possible threat of Zika, but to combat the real and annual threats posed by other virus-carrying insects in our state.”

While Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito that carries the Zika virus, is rarely found in New Jersey, the State is enhancing its existing mosquito control efforts. DEP has been working with the New Jersey Mosquito Control Commission, and county agencies to monitor for this particular species of mosquito.

DEP experts and their colleagues at the New Jersey Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and Rutgers University’s Center for Vector Biology are working closely together in order to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne viruses.

For more information on Zika and how DEP and DOH are addressing the potential threat please visit:  or

For information on the State’s Mosquito Control Commission, please visit:

For more information on the DEP’s Charles O. Hayford State Fish Hatchery in Hackettstown please visit:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New Jersey's Artificial Reef

Since 1984, the Bureau of Marine Fisheries has been involved in an intensive program of artificial reef construction and biological monitoring. The purpose is to create a network of artificial reefs in the ocean waters along the New Jersey coast to provide a hard substrate for fish, shellfish and crustaceans, fishing grounds for anglers, and underwater structures for scuba divers.

Artificial reefs are constructed by intentionally placing dense materials, such as old ships and barges, concrete and steel demolition debris and dredge rock on the sea floor within designated reef sites. At present, the division holds permits for 15 artificial reef sites encompassing a total of 25 square miles of sea floor. The reefs are strategically located along the coast so that 1 site is within easy boat range of 12 New Jersey ocean inlets.

A recent press release from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, announced that the artificial reef deployment program is back on course as a result of restoration of federal funding made possible by a compromise the Christie Administration reached between recreational anglers and commercial fishermen over access to the popular reefs.

The 65-foot crew boat NY Harbor Charlie
The DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife plans to sink as many as 10 vessels by the end of fall to become part of the its network of artificial reefs. Two ships were deployed earlier this summer and the third deployment took place today at the Axel Carlson Reef, just southeast of Manasquan Inlet, with the sinking of the 65-foot crew boat NY Harbor Charlie.

“Artificial reefs create important habitat for many types of marine life, and attract fish that are popular with recreational anglers,” said Commissioner Bob Martin. “Our artificial reefs are an important part of the economy of the Jersey Shore because they are so popular with anglers as well as sport divers. We are grateful to all our partners in the recreational and commercial fishing industries for working with us to get this program back on track.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing $119,250 to the artificial reef program because the DEP was able to reach a compromise that allows commercial interests to have continued access to portions of two reefs in state waters and calls for the construction of a new reef for recreational fishing, also in state waters. State waters extend three miles from the shoreline.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had suspended the funding due to concerns that commercial fishing was intruding on and hampering recreational fishing on artificial reefs in state waters, which are funded by excise taxes on recreational fishing gear and motor boat fuel. The compromise was reached in 2013, and codified in rule changes that were adopted by the DEP in November 2015.

Under the new rule, commercial fishing operations are permitted to continue using portions of two existing reefs in state waters off Sandy Hook and Manasquan. State waters extend to three miles offshore. Recreational anglers will continue to have access to all portions of these reefs.
Charter fishing (cropped)The DEP is matching the federal money for the program with $39,750 from state appropriations and a donation from a firm that creates concrete reef structures.

As part of its efforts this year, the DEP’s artificial reef program will perform an archeological survey on the new reef called for under the compromise, which will be developed off Manasquan Inlet. The program also will be conducting an archeological survey for construction of an additional reef in Delaware Bay, which the Division of Fish and Wildlife has been planning for years.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife currently holds permits for 15 artificial reef sites – 13 in federal waters and two in state waters. The reefs, encompassing a total of 25 square miles of ocean floor, are constructed from a variety of materials, such as rocks, concrete and steel, even old ships and barges. These materials provide surfaces for a wide diversity of marine organisms to grow, ultimately providing food and habitat for many species of fish and shellfish. The reefs are placed to be within easy reach by boat of 12 inlets.

DEP studies have shown that these materials are colonized quickly with organisms such as algae, barnacles, mussels, sea stars, blue crabs, and sea fans that attract smaller fish which, in turn, attract black sea bass, tautog, summer flounder, scup, lobster and other sought-after species.

“The artificial reef program has a long and proven track record of enhancing ecological diversity and productivity,” said Brandon Muffley, Administrator of the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Fisheries Administration. “Our studies have shown that colonization begins in as little as a couple weeks.”

As part of a $250,000 broader assessment of marine resources currently under way, the DEP and Rutgers University will be evaluating which artificial reef structure materials attract the most fish.
Artificial reefs are extremely popular with anglers and divers, contributing to the state’s economy through the creation of tourism opportunities and jobs. New Jersey’s commercial fishing industry ranks 7th in the nation in retail sales, and supports $327 million in salaries and wages and nearly 13,000 jobs.

Recreational saltwater fishing brings in more than $640 million in retail sales and is directly responsible for nearly 10,000 jobs and more than $242 million in tax revenues, including $165 million in state and local taxes.

The Manasquan River Marlin and Tuna Club and the Ann E. Clark Foundation/The Sportfishing Fund were key partners in the deployment of the NY Harbor Charlie.

For more information on New Jersey’s Artificial Reef Program, visit:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

On New Jersey's Endangered Species Program

Peregrine falcons

New Jersey Monthly did a nice feature story on New Jersey's endangered species recently. It is a nice overview of the more than 80 species — from birds to bobcats — that are in danger because of loss of habitat and other man-made threats. These species come range from 1.5-inch bronze copper butterfly to the 60,000-pound humpback whale.

Another threat in our state is funding. The ENSP program charged with protecting NJ’s endangered and threatened wildlife has a budget of only $2.5 million to cover its 14-person staff and all its projects. ENSP must protect and manage the state’s nearly 500 wildlife species—including those that are endangered or threatened.

Funds come from federal aid, including State Wildlife Grants and Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program funding, along with state appropriations, a state income tax checkoff and revenue from Conserve Wildlife license plates - not from your taxes.

The article points out that the ENSP would need 10 times its budget to fully implement even 80 percent of the projects in its Wildlife Action Plan, a federally mandated outline of the steps needed to conserve wildlife and habitat.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Flemington “BatCam”

Brown bat      photo:

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) wildlife ecologist Stephanie Feigin, along with project partner MacKenzie Hall from New Jersey’s Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDEP) and project interns from Rutgers University, streamed a bat banding LIVE on Facebook from a residential house in Flemington, New Jersey. The banding has reached over 200,000 online followers as of Thursday morning.

Watch the video from Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Facebook page.

This banding survey was part of a long standing maternity survey project conducted by CWF in partnership with NJDEP. These surveys allow us to gain important information about reproductive success, record weight, sex and age status of the bats, assess bats for signs of white-nose syndrome, and band bats for future observation.

“Though going ‘live’ can be a bit nerve-wracking, I really felt this once in a lifetime opportunity could make a difference. Not only do we want to give our viewers first-hand experience of our field biologists, we also want to give them the ability to see wildlife in a way they have never seen before,” said Feigin. “This technology gives us the ability to raise awareness for New Jersey’s rare wildlife, directly interacting with thousands of followers as we conduct important wildlife surveys to protect these imperiled species.”

During the banding survey and live-streaming, the scientists caught and banded over 35 big brown bats. Many New Jersey bat species have plummeted over the past decade due to the ravages of white-nose syndrome, an introduced fungus that interrupts bats’ winter hibernation.

In addition to banding bats, CWF coordinates acoustic bat monitoring, summer bat counts, mist netting and radio telemetry surveys, and white-nose syndrome research – all aimed at ensuring bats are given the best chance at survival.

This work is funded in part by Cooper Pest Solutions, EarthColor, and the Franklin Parker Conservation Excellence Grants Program.

“The main goal of our bat projects is to protect the bats we have in New Jersey, protect their habitats, learn more about their life cycles, and educate the public on the benefits of bats and how amazing and beneficial they truly are,” said Feigin. “By streaming live, I think we were able to shed new light on bats and allow the public to gain a better understanding for these special mammals.”

Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) is the state's leading organization working to protect rare and imperiled wildlife. CWF utilizes field science, wildlife management, habitat restoration, education, and public engagement to help vulnerable wildlife species recover.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Additional Species Added to CWF's Field Guide

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ’s online field guide to New Jersey’s wildlife was recently expanded to include 23 additional species.

Recent status reviews by the state’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program for reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies, additional species within the state will be receiving an imperiled status of either Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern. Six reptile species are being added as well as four amphibians and thirteen butterfly species.

For a list of list of all the new species included, see 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Update: Piping Plovers at Island Beach State Park

The following is an update from NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife biologist Christina Davis on the Piping Plovers nesting on the beach in Island Beach State Park:

It's been a week of highs and lows for our plover brood!  Last Saturday, 7/23, one of the two remaining chicks was observed with a moderate limp. There was no obvious cause of injury and the bird was still quite active, but its mobility was compromised. Piping Plovers (and especially chicks) do not fare particularly well in rehab so our preference is always to leave the individual in the wild, when possible. Given the condition of the chick, we decided to take a wait and see attitude.

By Monday, the limp had not improved. We had already planned to band the chicks that day (four color markers, two on each upper leg, specific to that individual) so we took the opportunity to get the bird in hand and examine the issue. We also had a veterinarian on standby ready to review photos and videos we sent her.

The problem area was the left foot, which was swollen, and the wing, which was a bit droopy. Considering that the chick is still growing (hampering efforts to treat it) , and that there were no signs of breaks or infection, a case could be made to release it. On the flip side, the chick weighed much less than its sibling (20g vs 25g) and the limp was quite pronounced. After much debate, and the appearance of a red fox seemingly attracted to the area by the chick calling, we determined the best course of action would be a stint in rehab. The healthy chick was released and the injured one taken from the site.

At the rehabilitation facility it was confirmed that there did not appear to be any breaks or fractures to the wing or the foot. This was good news as setting or immobilizing growing body parts can do more harm than good. The goal of rehab, therefore, is to allow the chick an opportunity to rest the foot and wing and to increase its weight (which is a lot easier for this species when it isn't burning calories running around).

The chick has done very well in rehab and is expected to be released soon. It has already  gained 5g and is active and alert. The healthy chick has continued to do well on site. We look forward to reuniting them!

When chicks are banded researchers do usually name them. This is primarily for ease of reference as a name is easier to recall/refer to than a band code. These two chicks are named Phipps (healthy chick) and Freeman (injured chick) as a tip of our hats to Island Beach's history. They can be identified by their band colors:

Phipps - Left upper leg is a black over a red band and the upper right is a blue over a yellow band (LR:BY)
Freeman - Left upper leg is a black over red band and the upper left is a blue over a green band (LR:BG)

As you can imagine, it is a lot easier to say (and remember), "Hurray, Freeman is in great shape and almost ready for release!" than "Hurray, Black over red, blue over green is in great shape and almost ready for release!"

The chicks hit an important milestone today (Thursday, July 28), by surviving 25 days. At this point, their flight feathers are coming in and they will start trying to fly very soon. It will take them time to become competent, but just like the Wright brothers, every day forward will bring them closer to mastering this skill.

For information on beach nesting birds in New Jersey visit