The Kootenay Community Bat Project needs your help this winter. All you need to do is report to them if you spot any bat activity, and especially if you happen across a dead bat.
Leigh Anne Isaac, KCBP coordinating biologist, says there is great concern that a disease deadly to bats may be making its way north.
White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America, has moved to the west coast, she says.
“Confirmed in Washington State just 150 km south of the BC-US border, the presence of the fungus is very worrisome for the health of our bat populations. The disease has near 100 per cent mortality for some species of bats exposed to the fungus, including the familiar Little Brown Bat. Although devastating for bats, WNS does not affect humans.”
The Kootenay Community Bat Project (KCBP) in collaboration with the BC government is requesting the public’s help in monitoring the spread of this disease.
“We believe that our bats hibernate in relatively small groups across the province” Isaac. “Detecting WNS in our province will require many eyes on the ground”.
The typical first sign of this disease is bats flying during the winter, an unusual sighting at a time of year when bats should be hibernating. Another sign of the presence of WNS is the appearance of dead bats outdoors as they succumb to the effects of WNS.
“We are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to KCBP, at www.bcbats.ca, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-855-922-2287 ext. 14.
Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing for White Nose Syndrome and would provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in BC, says Isaac. Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.
If you find a dead bat, report it to KCBP as soon as possible for further information. Never touch a dead bat with your bare hands. Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with the bat you will need further information regarding the risk of rabies to you and your pet.
Currently there are no treatments for WNS. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations with the resilience to rebound. This is where the KCBP and the general public can help.
Funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of the East and Central Kootenays, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Forest Enhancement Society of BC, Province of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the KCBP works with the government and others on public outreach activities, public reports of roosting bats in buildings, and our citizen-science bat monitoring program.