Volunteer waits for bats to emerge. M. Kellner photo.

KCBP seeking volunteers and roosts for annual BC Bat Counts

The community initiative helps determine bat populations as White Nose Syndrome looms

The Kootenay Community Bat Program (KCBP) is seeking volunteers and bat colonies for their annual bat count.

The initiative encourages residents to count bats at local roost sites, in order to help biologists collect data about bats in the region.

“Bat counts are a wonderful way for resident to get involved in collecting important scientific information,” said Biologist Mandy Kellner, Coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program. “No special skills are needed, you can be any age, and you can relax in a deck chair while counting.”

The annual bat count collects baseline data on bat populations. This is particularly important right now as White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease, could soon affect bats across the province.

“White Nose Syndrome is estimated to have killed more than seven million bats since it was first discovered in eastern North America a decade ago,” says Leigh Anne Isaac, Coordinating Biologist of the KCBP. “In March 2016, the disease was detected just east of Seattle, and has now spread within Washington State. This has greatly increased our urgency to understand bat populations in B.C.. We need the public’s help to census local bat populations – we never know when it is our last year to obtain population estimates before White Nose Syndrome causes widespread declines in western North America.”

The counts are easy – volunteers wait outside of a known roost site, such as a bat house, barn, bridge, or attic, and count bats as they fly out at twilight. Volunteers then record the final number along with basic information on weather conditions. Ideally, one to two counts are done between June 1 and 21, before pups are born, and one to two more between July 11 and August 5 when pups are flying.

Isaac says that they know relatively little about bats in the Kootenay region, including basic information on population numbers.

“This information will be extremely valuable, particularly if it is collected annually,” she said. “If people want to get involved but don’t have a roost site on their property, we will try to match them with a roost site nearby.”

The KCBP provides information for people dealing with bat issues on their property or who have questions about how to attract bats. To find out more about bat counts, or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit www.bcbats.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS.

The KCBP is funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, Regional District of the East and Central Kootenay, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, and with support of the BC Conservation Foundation and the Province of BC.

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Townsend’s Big-eared Bat is one of the species people may encounter. S. Laughlin photo.

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