HAT is initiating a Community Bat Program modeled after the successful Kootenay Community Bat Project. In this first year of the project, our goal is to start mapping out colonies in the Greater Victoria area, monitor a few maternity bat roots, and compare bat house designs . We were awarded a good quality bat detector, an Anabat SD2, and training in how to use the equipment curtsey of the Bob Berry Scientific Award.
We need your help. We need practice using the detector, and we need information about bat houses. Here’s what you can do:
1. If you have a bat house, please contact us, even if it has not been successful, to tell us about its design and placement (photo appreciated). The information will help us understand what design and environmental elements are important to successful houses.
2. If you know of a bat colony or roosts we would like to know about it. We would like to select a few roosts to monitor so we would like to know if you are comfortable with a biologist spending a few evening watching the colony at dusk, please contact us. The biologist would simply monitor the bats as they emerge from your shingles, attic, or tree, and record their echolocation vocalizations with our bat detector. We need to practice!
These small, furry shapes dart through the evening air in search of insects faster than the eye can follow. Voracious insectivores, a single member of our local bat population may eat up to 5000 insects a night, including many mosquitoes. Despite popular folklore, bats are not blind, don’t fly into your hair, are not rodents, and do not spread disease (the rare rabid bat has been found on Vancouver Island, but it is very unusual).
Beyond that however, we don’t know as much as you might expect about our local bat populations. What species occur here in what numbers, where they live, and how their populations are doing are all unknown. Biologists suspect that bat populations on southern Vancouver Island have declined in numbers. The loss of wetlands (important feeding areas for bats), and roosting sites in wildlife trees have likely taken a toll, not to mention the booming population of cats and introduced Grey Squirrels, which can predate on bats they discover roosting during the day. Still it is not uncommon to see the small bat Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) hunting on warm summer evenings in our area.
That’s no longer the case in eastern North America.
The Little Brown Bat was a common bat in most of North America until just a few years ago. Then, in 2006, a fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome starting killing large numbers of hibernating Little Brown Bats in the eastern U.S. The fungus is spreading at an astounding pace across much of the north eastern States and into four Provinces. The fungus likely spreads by hitchhiking on people and equipment. An emergency meeting of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in February 2012 added three species of bats to the Canadian Endangered Species list, including the Little Brown Bat.
The good news is that White Nose Syndrome has not yet been detected in British Columbia. The bad news is that the fungus is continuing to spread west, and at the moment our knowledge about local bat populations is so rudimentary that we not be able to detect declines in population numbers until it is too late.
Original Published at HAT News in the Naturalist, the membership magazine of the Victoria Natural History Society.