Not sure if you are keeping up on the recent news regarding our local bat species. Perhaps not, but it’s big; and worth paying attention to. The culprit having serious impacts on our bats is called white nose syndrome; a fungus introduced from Europe into eastern Canada.
For some reason, bats in Europe have adapted to this fungus, but North American bats have not. In particular, three bats are being abnormally affected: the little brown bat (yes, it’s the species real name, and it is little and brown), the northern bat (found in mid-eastern to northeastern BC), and the tri-coloured bat (yes….three colours).
The fungus from White Nose Syndrome impacts bats by growing on their nose and face while they hibernate. The fungus itself does not kill the bat; rather it creates enough of an annoyance that the bat comes out of hibernation to clean themselves of the fungus. Each time this occurs they lose precious energy needed to last until spring, which has fatal results. It is thought that the White Nose Syndrom fungus was spread from Europe by scientists and recreational cave explorers.
Recently the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed these three species as endangered.
Currently in B.C., the little brown bat is our most common bat, and is found throughout most of the province, so how can it be endangered? The short answer is that the mortality of bats in eastern Canada has been so severe that it may be the most rapid decline of mammals ever seen in the world (up to 90 per cent mortality in the last five years). Visit the B.C. Got Bats website for more information www.bcbats.ca/
Bats are something we should care about, given the number of services they provide. They are voracious predators of mosquitos and black flies for one, but they also prey on a number of other insect pests that affect our forests and agriculture. Without bats, the demand for pesticides would likely rise significantly. Other research has indicated a strong role in stream fertilization by bat droppings that have benefit to our local fish species.
The fungus is known to be partially spread by bats (seeing they are a communal species), but it continues to be spread by cave explorers by inadvertently carrying fungal spores on their clothing, equipment and footwear from one cave to another. So one thing we can do is to make other people aware that if they are cave exploring, that they should ensure all of their clothing, equipment and shoes are thoroughly clean. We can also ensure that bat populations are as high as they can be so that they have the numbers to adapt to the effects of white nose syndrome by building bat houses. There is an excellent video for building bat houses at this site: bit.ly/1G4ob6I
MARS receives about 5 calls to help bats every year. The most important thing is do not handle a bat with your bare hands; wear leather gloves, or preferably throw a towel over the bat and place it in a ventilated box. Finally, if you find an injured bat, call us the Wildlife Rescue Centre and we can pick it up.
We (MARS) will be hosting our AGM on May 30 (Saturday). Please watch for further details over the next few weeks.
To report injured wildlife please call 250-337-2021, to read our latest updates and upcoming events please visit www.wingtips.org. Please consider volunteering or donating monthly to MARS; we rely heavily on your investments in wildlife.
Contact Maj Birch