As Halloween approaches, images of scary, blood-sucking bats become common place.
Since the goal of the B.C. Community Bat Program in the Okanagan is to promote bat conservation, this is the perfect time of year to counter these bat myths and do something to help bats.
“The conservation of bats in BC has always been important, since over half the species in this province are considered at risk” said Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, program co-ordinator.
“However, with the discovery of white-nose syndrome in Washington State, bat conservation is more important than ever.”
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease caused by an introduced fungus, first detected in North America in a cave in New York in 2006. Since it was discovered, it has spread to 31 states and five provinces in North America, decimating bat populations along the way.
“Luckily, WNS is not yet in B.C. But we are preparing for its arrival by raising awareness about bats, working with landowners who have bats in buildings, enhancing bat habitat, and monitoring populations,” said Rodriguez de la Vega.
Community bat projects across the province are hosting talks and events in association with Bat Week (Oct. 24 to 31) to provide information and guidance on ways to help bats. In the South Okanagan, the Okanagan Community Bat Program is delivering school programs while bat biologist Tanya Luszcz, will be delivering a lunch hour bat program Nov. 3 at the Penticton library. In Vernon, the Allan Brooks Nature Centre is hosting a bat booth for its Nature Nocturnal event Oct. 28.
Monitoring for WNS will continue this winter, with community bat programs requesting reports of dead bats or sightings of winter bat activity. You can report sightings at www.bcbats.ca or 1-855-922-2287.
Options for encouraging healthy bat populations include preserving wildlife trees and wetlands, reducing pesticide use, or building and installing a bat house.
With the decline of natural roost sites, some bat species have adapted to using human-made structures, such as bat-houses. These small boxes have several crevices inside that provide a safe, dry habitat where bats can roost during summer months.
“Bat-houses are particularly important for maternity colonies where groups of female bats roost together to have their pup during the summer” said Rodriguez de la Vega.