There are 10 known species of bats on Vancouver Island, and all of them face threats from habitat loss, predatation by cats, and from the future arrival of White Nose Syndrome. Unfortunately, we know little about bat habits and population on Vancouver Island. HAT's Community Bat Program is working to better understand bats in the Capital region, and helping homeowners with bats in buildings to find ways to live with the bats, or exclude them in a way that does not harm them.
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About Bats in the Capital region
While there are about 10 species of bats in the region, they all have a few things in common:
- All our bats are insectivores, meaning they all eat bugs. In fact, they eat more insects than any other nighttime predator. No bats in Canada eat fruit or blood.
- All our bats are relatively small. Most bats with their wings spread are smaller than adult's outspread hand, though a few grow up to 20cm.
- All are suffering from major habitat loss, including loss of important feeding areas on streams and wetlands, and roost areas in wildlife trees.
- All are long-lived (over 30 years for some species) and reproduce slowly. Most species have only 1 baby each year, though a few species are known to have twins.
Several of our bat species are considered to be at-risk, including the Keen's Myotis and Townsend Big-eared Bat. The Little Brown Bat has been recommended for Endangered status by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada due to dramatic population losses from White Nose Syndrome in Eastern Canada.
|Common Name||Scientific Name||At-Risk Status||Summer Dwelling|
|Big Brown Bat||Eptesicus fuscus||Not at risk||Buildings, Dead/dying trees, rock crevices, cliffs|
|Silver-haired Bat||Lasionycteris noctivagans||Not at risk||Live and Dead/dying trees|
|Hoary Bat||Lasiurus cinereus||Not at risk||Live and Dead/dying trees|
|California Myotis||Myotis californicus||Not at risk||Buildings (not common), Dead/dying trees, rock crevices, cliffs|
|Myotis evotis||Not at risk||Buildings (not common), Dead/dying trees, rock crevices, cliffs|
|Little Brown Myotis||Myotis lucifugus||Canditate for Endangered Species||Buildings, Dead/dying trees, rock crevices, cliffs, mines|
|Long-legged Myotis||Myotis volans||Not at risk||Buildings (not common), Dead/dying trees, rock crevices, cliffs|
|Not at risk||Buildings, Dead/dying trees, rock crevices, cliffs|
|Keen's Myotis||Myotis keenii||Red-listed in B.C.||Dead/dying trees, rock crevices,|
|Townsend Big-eared Bat||Corynorhinus townsendii||Blue-listed in B.C.||Buildings, Dead/dying trees, rock crevices, cliffs|
What threats do bats face in the region?
Bats in the Capital region continue to lose habitat at a rapid pace. They typically feed near wetlands, streams, creeks, and rivers, but over 80% of wetland areas have been lost in Victoria. Most of our bat species rely on wildlife (dead) trees for roost sites, but most wildlife trees have been lost as well. Bat houses, particularly if they are close to a wetland area, may provide important roosting habitat for bats.
Do bats spread disease?
Bats are the only known transmitter of rabies on Vancouver Island, and for that reason many people fear them. Caution and care is appropriate if you find a dead or injured bat, but there is little reason to fear. Less than 1 in 1000 bats carries rabies, and transmission to humans is rare. However, rabies is a serious illness that can be fatal. To protect yourself:
- Never handle bats
- Beware of bats that act strangely, such as flying during the day
- If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, seek medical attention immediately – the vaccine is excellent (5 small injections in the arm, not shots in the stomach like it used to be decades ago)
In Alberta and tropical areas, people have contracted histoplasmosis, a fungal lung disease through contact with bat guano, although this has not occured in British Columbia. To be safe when working in areas with bat guano:
- Use a respiratory mask that filters to 2 microns when cleaning up bat guano
- Dampen bat droppings before cleaning them up
- Seal droppings in a plastic bag for disposal
- Clean surface wtih a dilute bleach solution (1 part bleach to 20 parts water)
For more information about bats and human health, see Bat Conservation International's information on Bats & Human Health.
What can I do if a colony of bats is living in my house or an outbuilding?
If you are comfortable with bats in your building, we encourage you to learn to live with them. Bats do not damage buildings (remember they are not rodents), and an important colony may be relying on the site. The Community Bat Programs of BC provides some advice on how to live with bats.
What can I do to help bats?
Bats do need your help, and there are many ways to get involved:
- We need reports of bat colonies in the region. If you know of a colony, please contact us. We also need volunteers to monitor colonies so we can learn about them.
- Place a bat house on the home, outbuilding, or on a pole in an open area on your property. Information on bat houses, including plans for making the houses and notes on placement, can be found at the Community Bat Programs of BC website.
Learn more about bats
The Community Bat Programs of BC website has more information about our bats, bat houses, how to exclude bats, and many other resources.
Bat Conservation International has a weath of information about bats, bat research, and bat conservation.
About HAT's Community Bat Program.
What you can do to help our local bat populations in your backyard or as a volunteer.