Search crews find body of swimmer missing in New River Gorge National River

The body of a 16-year-old boy who was swimming near the McCreery River Access Point of New River Gorge National River in West Virginia was found on the afternoon of Friday, July 5. National Park Service rangers and trained search and rescue divers and personnel began searching for the boy shortly after he became caught in the swift-moving current around 7am on July 5. His body was located 200 yards downstream from where he was last seen, submerged 14 feet below the water. 

The tragic event is a reminder that the New River has swift currents, deep holes, and a rocky bottom. Water levels can change by the day. Life jackets should be worn in the water at all times, even while on a boat. The National Park Service reminds the public that most drownings in the New River involve people who didn’t plan on being in the water and that even experienced swimmers can become disoriented or incapacitated during an accident on the river. 

U.S. Forest Service deploys “River Rangers” to protect fragile wildlife

The U.S. Forest Service has launched a program in Pisgah National Forest aimed at educating the public about the importance of macroinvertebrates and other aquatic wildlife. The first of its kind, four-woman ranger program works in teams seven days a week, visiting the most popular areas in Pisgah to provide education and outreach to kids and their parents, too. In the first four weeks of the program, the rangers collected 800 pounds of garbage, dismantled rock dams and rock sculptures, and interacted with over 800 people. 

One of the program’s most important jobs is educating the public about the Eastern Hellbender. The large aquatic salamander lives in streams and rivers in Western North Carolina and is considered a species of special concern in the state. The Hellbender lives under large, flat rocks and feeds on aquatic insects. The public is asked not to move rocks as it disruptions the Eastern Hellbender and the macroinvertebrates that live on the rocks in the water. 

Bat fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome detected for first time in California

The fungus that causes the deadly bat disease White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has been detected at low levels for the first time in California. The fungus was detected in samples collected from bats on private land in Plumas County, California and is the first indication that WNS has finally arrived in the state.

The fungus was first detected in New York in 2006 and has since spread to 33 states and seven Canadian provinces. It has killed over 6 million bats in North America by waking the bats during hibernation, forcing them to use energy reserves needed to survive the winter. Until spring of 2016, the westernmost occurrence of the fungus was in Nebraska. That spring, however, the WNS was detected in Washington State. Because bats produce just one offspring per year, it can take some populations decades to recover from the devastating disease.