For Immediate Release -
Public help needed to monitor for winter bat activity
WANTED: Reports of dead bats and of bats flying during winter
Date: Feb 4, 2020
BC bats are threatened by disease, and researchers are again asking for the public to help. 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.
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% mortality for some species of bats exposed to the fungus, including the locally familiar Little Brown Bat. Just this year, WNS has been confirmed for the first time in a fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) in King County, Washington. This finding brings the total number of bat species confirmed with the disease in North America to 13. Although devastating for bats, WNS does not affect humans.
The Southern Vancouver Island Community Bat Program run by Habitat Acquisition Trust in collaboration with the BC government is requesting the public’s help in monitoring winter bat activity. “We believe that our bats hibernate in relatively small groups across the province” says Paige Erickson-McGee, Bat Stewardship Coordinator for the program. “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 the Community Bat Project (CBP) toll-free phone number, website, or email below. 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 Erickson-McGee. Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.
Currently there are no treatments for White Nose Syndrome. 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 BC Community Bat Program and the general public can help.
To provide an update on bat conservation work in North America, Paige will be presenting the latest research on Tuesday February 11, 2020 at 7:30pm at the University of Victoria Fraser Building, room 159. The talk is hosted by the Victoria Natural History Society, it is free and open to the public. Visit vicnhs.bc.ca for more information on the talk.
Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the Province of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, and Lush Cosmetics, the Southern Vancouver Island Community Bat Program works with the government and others on public outreach activities, public reports of roosting bats in buildings, and our citizen-science bat monitoring program.
Contact: Paige Erickson-McGee, Stewardship Coordinator, Habitat Acquisition Trust
Pseudogymnoascus_destructans Raudabaugh- photo by DB Raudabaugh, Wikipedia. Culture of Pd, the fungus responsible for WNS and more than 6 million bat deaths in North America.
Little brown bat with WNS – photo by Alan Hicks, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation - A hibernating Little Brown Bat showing visible signs of the fungus.
Hibernating little brown bats - photo by Alan Hicks, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation – Little Brown Bats hibernatine in a cave, showing signs of WNS