10/18/14 2:00pm
A baby brown bat. (Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

A baby brown bat. (Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

Don’t be afraid of that dangling bat this Halloween — odds are it’s not real.

Biology experts warn that North American bat populations — including those found on Long Island — are declining, and at an alarming rate due to a newly documented condition known as White Nose Syndrome.

“Bats that are common to the North Fork are some of the most threatened bat species,” said Bill Schutt, a zoologist and professor at LIU Post who is an expert on endangered bats. “The most common here is the little brown bat.”

Mr. Schutt will discuss local bat populations Sunday at a North Fork Audubon Society workshop at Peconic Lane Community Center. The workshop starts at 2 p.m.

Mr. Schutt said bat species don’t get the credit they are owed, overshadowed by myths and the common perception that the flying mammals are just rodents.

“Bats take over the birds’ job at night,” he said, explaining that significant losses to bat populations could mean an increase in insect populations.

“The more insects that are present, the more insecticides will be used, entering in the environment and collecting in the water table,” he said.

One little brown bat consumes thousands of insects each night, eating its body weight in food, according to the nonprofit organization.

A total of nine bat species live in New York, none of which are considered “vampire bats,” which drink blood and likely drive the misconception of bat populations. Those species are found in southern Mexico, Central America, and South America; the bats drink blood of cows, goats, pigs, and chickens, according to the organization.

This time of year, bats will be heading north, to the mines and caves of upstate New York and Pennsylvania, and as far north as Canada, where they go into hibernation. In those caves bats are catching White Nose Syndrome, a white fungus that thrives in cold environments. It grows on a bat and can wake it from hibernation, wasting its precious stored energy and often contributing to its death.

The fungus has killed an estimated 5.7 million bats in eastern North America since it was documented in the 2006-’07 winter, killing 90 to 100 percent of bats in caves affected by the fungus.

“It’s such a horror show,” Mr. Schutt said of entering affected caves.

About 80 percent of deaths in caves he’s researched have been to the little brown bat species, he said.

“There are many other species that are affected, but this one is affected most,” he said.

People can help the local little brown bat population by putting up bat houses and planting wildflower gardens, he said.

Should you find a bat in the attic — especially during hibernation season — let it be, Mr. Schutt said. It will leave come spring, giving homeowners an opportunity to better secure the area.

For more information on bats or White Nose Syndrome visit www.savebats.org.

For more information about Sunday’s event, contact Peggy Lauber at
516-526-9095 or email info@northforkaudubon.org.

(Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

(Credit: Courtesy of Organization for Bat Conservation)

10/17/14 8:00am
Friends of the Big Duck Ranch vice president Fran Cobb (from left) in the Big Duck Museum's newly renovated barn with co-curators Lisa Dabrowski and David Wilcox. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Friends of the Big Duck Ranch vice president Fran Cobb (from left) in the Big Duck Museum’s newly renovated barn with co-curators Lisa Dabrowski and David Wilcox. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

It’s an industry that once defined the area. And while duck farming has faded over the past several decades, Friends of the Big Duck are determined to keep Long Island’s history in the business alive and well in Flanders for future generations to learn about.

“Most people have no idea how large the [duck] industry was out here,” said Lisa Dabrowski, co-curator of the Big Duck Museum, which opens its doors Saturday. “I am looking forward to seeing the reaction when visitors see how inspiring the industry really was.”  (more…)

10/16/14 12:34pm
Emmanuel Coleman, 34, of Riverhead and Kwame Opoku, 32, of Mastic Beach, being led to their arraignment Thursday morning. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Emmanuel Coleman, 34, of Riverhead and Kwame Opoku, 32, of Mastic Beach, being led to their arraignment Thursday morning. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The two men who police say are responsible for a shooting in Flanders Wednesday that critically injured one man are being remanded without bail at the Suffolk County Jail as they await a grand jury indictment. (more…)

10/16/14 1:00am
Police investigate the scene of an shooting on McKinley Street in Flanders Wednesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Police investigate the scene of a shooting on McKinley Street in Flanders Wednesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Update (12:30 p.m. Thursday): The two men arrested in connection with Wednesday’s shooting in Flanders were arraigned Thursday morning and held without bail. Click here for details.

Update (1 a.m. Thursday): Two men were arrested in connection with Wednesday’s shooting in Flanders, according to a Southampton Police press release.

Kwame Opoku, 32, of Mastic Beach was charged with first-degree assault, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree criminal use of a firearm, and first-degree reckless endangerment, police said. (more…)

10/12/14 6:00am

Perhaps it’s a leftover painkiller from recent dental work or a magical stress reliever saved for a future airplane ride.

Or maybe you just didn’t know what to do with it all.

October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, a good time to take five minutes to check out your household’s stock of prescription medications and get rid of what’s no longer needed. You’d be surprised by what you might find.


10/10/14 10:00am
A view of Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

A view of Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Riverhead Town could be among the first municipalities in Suffolk County to take a proactive step in dealing with nitrogen pollution from wastewater, which is wreaking havoc on Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound waters.

The Riverhead Town Board is weighing a building code amendment that would strengthen requirements for septic system upgrades on certain home renovations beyond what is currently mandated by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

If passed, the change would require homeowners located within wetlands, beach, dune and bluff areas to upgrade septic systems when a renovation or home expansion is being completed, especially when it will impact wastewater flow.

Currently, the county requires a septic system upgrade only if a single or two family residence is being expanded to four bedrooms, Deputy Town Attorney Ann Marie Prudenti explained during an Oct. 2 town work session.

Upgrades would only be required to meet “current” health department standards, which do not yet mandate advanced denitrification systems that can carry a hefty price tag.

The county health department is currently testing such advanced systems, looking for one that is suitable for single home use that could — and likely will — become the standard requirement in the future, according to environmental advocates.

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who proposed the change, said the goal is to improve sanitary systems, particularly outdated cesspools, to a more advanced option such as a septic tank system, which includes what’s called a “leeching field” that allows more time for nitrogen to break down in wastewater before that water enters nearby groundwater, according to the not-for-profit Marine Biological Laboratory research center in Massachusetts.

Some area cesspools have been in the ground since before 1971, when the county first began regulating sanitary systems, Ms. Giglio said.

“It is important that we protect our water bodies, fisheries, lobsters and aquaculture from nitrates [nitrogen] directly flowing into the estuary,” she said. “I don’t want to waste time. It will improve our water quality and it is something that has needed to be done for a long time.”

According to Marine Biological Laboratory researchers, houses within 200 meters of the shoreline contribute more nitrogen to local estuaries, as wastewater has a shorter distance to travel before entering groundwater, limiting the natural nitrogen removal processes, which is why local coastal areas are being targeted.

Joe Hall, an environmental planner for the town, said the high concentration of homes near the water is probably the biggest cause of nitrogen pollution entering the Peconic Estuary, noting that a large portion of property within the town falls within the coastal areas discussed.

The need for change was sparked when a Jamesport homeowner was “practically rebuilding his home,” yet not required to update his outdated cesspool, Ms. Giglio said.

“Witnessing it first hand, what’s wrong with government [requirements], I took the first steps to improve our environmental water quality for all of the residents,” she said. “It may not be popular, this legislation, [but] as a legislator it is my responsibility to take action.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said he supports the proposal, but is concerned it could allow the town building department to require homeowners to install a advanced denitrification system when one is approved down the road.

Ms. Giglio said she isn’t proposing the town “go to the fullest extent” and require denitrification systems — just yet.

“What I’m proposing now is an improvement on the current situation,” she said. “But if the Suffolk County Department of Health Services was to go forward and make those denitrification systems the new standard county requirement, my legislation would account for that.”

Water quality advocate Kevin McAllister said the proposed amendment would “simply bring systems up to the standard Suffolk County code, but the county code itself is deficient.

“The councilwoman’s proposal, it’s not cutting edge legislation,” he added. “It will just end up embroiling us in these baby steps. If we’re really going to be serious about addressing nitrogen we have to require denitrification upgrades.”

He noted that “baby steps” could end up costing Long Island homeowners more in the long run, as denitrification systems will inevitably become necessary to solve water quality issues in areas where sewering is not viable.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said he is “encouraged that local government is finding it necessary to have more restrictive regulations in sensitive watershed areas — even more so than the county [health department].”

Riverhead Town is one of several area municipalities weighing regulatory action in an attempt to improve area water quality. Brookhaven Town officials are drafting regulations aimed at limiting the amount of nitrogen a home can discharge in the area near the Carmans River.

Southampton Town officials last April created a rebate incentive program to help area homeowners upgrade or repair outdated systems to meet the current county health department requirements, though the amount of funding secured for the initiative has already been extinguished.

Riverhead Town officials are expected to discuss the amendment further before releasing a final draft of the proposal. Ms. Giglio said she hopes to publish the proposed legislation by the end of October and announce a public hearing for mid-November.