Disease threatens the Little Brown Bat – researchers ask public for help
OKANAGAN AREA, BC – B.C.’s bats, including the well-known Little Brown Bat, are threatened by a fungal disease headed towards the province from Alberta and Washington State. The Okanagan Community Bat Program, in collaboration with the Province of BC, is asking the public for help in the effort to detect and prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). Residents are urged to report any bat activity observed in winter and any sick or dead bats found before May 31st.
White-Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that is harmless to humans and pets, but has devastated North American bat populations. The fungus attacks bats while they are hibernating, growing on their faces to give an appearance of a white nose. Bats often wake to clean the fungus from their skin. This uses valuable energy, and finally the bats die from starvation. Across North America, millions of bats have been killed, and two BC species are now listed as Endangered due to the disease.
First detected in New York State in 2006, the disease continues to spread, with detections on the west coast close to Seattle and in south-central Alberta. Biologists say the arrival of WNS in BC is imminent. Increasing the number of reports from the public is the best chance to understand how WNS might spread and affect local bat populations. Though there is not yet a proven cure for WNS, several promising treatment options are being developed, and it may be possible to mitigate the effects of this wildlife health crisis.
If you find a dead bat or have sightings of winter bat activity, please report to the B.C. Community Bat Program online at www.bcbats.ca , via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-855-922-2287 ext.13. All live bats should be left alone — keep your distance, snap a photo and report it to the B.C. Community Bat Program. If you must move a bat, visit www.bcbats.ca for advice and never touch a bat with your bare hands. Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with the bat you will need further information regarding the risk of rabies to you and your pet. Please contact the BC Community Bat Program for more information.
The bats of BC are key predators of many night-flying insects. They are essential parts of BC’s ecosystems and provide billions of dollars of economic benefit by helping control agricultural, forest, and urban pests. In partnership with the BC Ministry of Environment, the BC Community Bat Program provides information and promotes local stewardship and citizen science.
The BC Community Bat Program Okanagan Region extends its gratitude to partners involved in bat conservation including the Bat Education and Environmental Protection Society (Peachland), Environmental Education Centre Okanagan (Kelowna), Allan Brooks Nature Centre (Vernon), Osoyoos Desert Society (Osoyoos), BC Parks (Penticton), Grist Mill (Keremeos), The Nature Trust (Twin Lakes), Granby Wilderness Society (Grand Forks) and several Okanagan naturalist and outdoor clubs The program runs thanks to funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Forest Enhancement Society of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program. You can find out more about the BC Community Bat Program and options for helping local bat populations at www.bcbats.ca, email@example.com, or 1-855-922-2287 ext.13.