Keeping tabs on Okanagan bats

Visitors to www.bcbats.ca will be linked to regional coordinators who monitor calls from residents about bats.

Members of the Venture Training Program with maternity bat houses constructed for the Okanagan Bat Program. Volunteers (from left) Kevin Houle

The BC Community Bat Project network is gearing up for another busy year.

The “Got Bats” initiative is a network of community bat projects established to raise awareness about bats, provide information to homeowners dealing with bat issues, promote the installation of bat-houses, and get help with monitoring local bat populations.

A toll-free phone line and website provides information on bats in building, encounters with bats, or how to attract bats.

Visitors to www.bcbats.ca will be linked to regional coordinators such as Margaret Holm who monitors public calls from Okanagan residents.

“The Vernon area and north end of Osoyoos Lake is a definite hot spot for bats,“ said Holm.

“Last year there were calls from people who had established bat colonies in their summer homes and were happy to support bats, while others wanted information on excluding bats.”

Of the 16 species of bats in the province, over half the species are declining and could become endangered.

Recently, the little brown myotis, a species that often roots in buildings, was listed as federally endangered due to the devastating impacts of white nose syndrome in eastern Canada.

This introduced fungus has killed approximately six million bats in North America.

Since the disease is not thought to be in western Canada, community bat projects are doing all they can to promote bat conservation prior to its arrival.

“We are encouraging people to sit out on lawn chairs at dusk and do bat counts for our program. This can provide important information on whether local bat populations are going up or down,” stated Holm.

Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and federal Habitat Stewardship Program, and supported by the BC Conservation Foundation, the Okanagan Community Bat Program is soliciting information on where bats roost and can provide site visits and advice to residents with bats in buildings.

Holm is visiting the Allan Brooks Nature Centre on May 28 for a public talk on the BC Got Bats Program and to train volunteers on conducting bat counts.

Allan Brooks Nature Centre and the Vernon and District Association for Community Living Venture Training Program have partnered with the Okanagan Community Bat Program to build large bat boxes suitable for supporting maternity colonies.

Large and small bat boxes made by the Venture Training Program can be purchased at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre ($20 for standard small boxes; $50 for maternity roost boxes).

Call to place your order at 250-260-4227.

If you have bats living in your buildings, would like to start a bat count, or want more information on bats, visit www.bcbats.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS.

To find out more about the bat presentation and field training at Allan Brooks Nature Centre,  go to abnc.ca or call 250-260-4227.