Spring brings increasing interest in bat health and public reports of bats

 Date: March 9, 2017. 

Fortunately for the bats of BC, it has been a quiet winter. The BC Community Bat Program, in collaboration with the Province of BC, is on the lookout for signs of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is a fungal disease harmless to humans but responsible for the deaths of millions of insect-eating bats in eastern North America. WNS was first detected in Washington State in March 2016. To monitor the spread of this disease, Community Bat Program coordinators have been collecting reports of unusual winter bat activity across southern BC and ensuring that dead bats are sent to the Canadian Wildlife Health Centre lab for disease testing. To-date, no WNS has been reported in the province. 

But spring conditions mean increased bat activity – and an increased chance of detecting the disease. As bats begin to leave hibernacula and return to their summering grounds, our chances of seeing live or dead bats increases, and the Community Bat Program is continuing to ask for assistance. 

“We are asking the public to report dead bats or any sightings of daytime bat activity to the Community Bat Project (CBP) as soon as possible
(1-855-922-2287 ext 24 or info@bcbats.ca)” says Mandy Kellner, coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program. Reports of unusual bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts. 

Never touch a bat with your bare hands as bats can carry rabies, a deadly disease. Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with a bat, immediately contact your physician and/or local public health authority or consult with your private veterinarian. 

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. Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Province of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the BC 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. 

To contact the BC Community Bat Program, see www.bcbats.ca, email info@bcbats.ca or call 1-855-922-2287 ext. 24.

 

 

 

Without bats, economy will have trouble flying

News Release: Cori Lausen / Times Colonist

January 4, 2017 

 After they replaced their Halloween décor with inflatable Santas and reindeer, most people probably never gave another thought to bats. But this winter could be lifechanging for many B.C. bats — and not in a good way. The recent discovery of bats infected with whitenose syndrome in a location in Washington state just over the border from B.C. could spell disaster for our bat populations. The syndrome has killed millions of bats in eastern North America over the past decade, but until the Washington discovery, had not been detected on the West Coast. A disaster for bats would also be a disaster for our economy. Bats are voracious consumers of insects. In fact, bats are the No. 1 consumer of nightflying insects. With many, many fewer bats circling our night skies, those insect populations are likely to explode, and that means significant damage to crops and trees, and even unpredictable changes to fisheries. A U.S. study found that bats provide up to $53 billion a year in pestcontrol services for the agricultural sector alone in the United States.

 Here in B.C., bats consume many moths that damage trees, including the caterpillars and moths of the spruce budworm. Many of the insects that bats consume start life as aquatic larvae, which are food for many freshwater fish. Shifts in insect densities and diversity can produce similar shifts in fish species. A massive dieoff of bats is going to change these patterns in ways that are hard to predict. It might mean greater reliance on artificial pesticides in agriculture or more areas of forest stripped of vegetation. Without bats controlling biting insects such as mosquitoes, we could also see an increase in cases of insect-borne diseases, such as West Nile disease. And it will mean more pests in our garden and more uninvited guests at our summer barbecues.

 Sadly, there is a very strong probability that the syndrome will flare up in B.C. this year. The disease makes the odds of winter survival extremely long for bats. Bats with the syndrome are infected with a fungus that eats at their wings and forces them to burn through their precious stored winter fat long before the return of the insect season. It spreads throughout hibernation sites, and can kill up to 90 per cent of resident bats. Bouncing back from the devastating impact of whitenose syndrome is not going to be easy for bats. While to some, bats seem like mice with wings, our only flying mammal has more in common with grizzly bears, bearing only one young each year and living 20 to 40 years.

Public help needed to monitor spread of deadly bat disease

WANTED: Reports of dead bats and of bats flying during winter

 Date: Jan 31, 2017.

 

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 and was confirmed in Washington State in 2016. This is very worrisome for the health of bat populations in British Columbia, with near 100% mortality for some species of bats exposed to the fungus. Although devastating for bats, WNS does not affect humans.

The BC Community Bat Program in collaboration with the BC government is requesting the public’s help in monitoring the spread of this disease. “We knew this deadly fungus was moving westward across North America” says Mandy Kellner, Coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program, “but we thought we had many years to prepare”. Instead, the disease was confirmed near Seattle last March, and we are gearing up to look for it in BC this winter.

The typical first sign of this disease is bats flying during the winter, an unusual sighting at a time of year when bats are hibernating. Another sign of the presence of WNS is the appearance of dead bats 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 Kellner. Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.

If you find a dead bat, report it to the CBP (1-855-922-2287 ext 24 or info@bcbats.ca) as soon as possible for further information. Never touch a dead 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.

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.

Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Province of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the BC 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.

To contact the BC Community Bat Program, see www.bcbats.ca or email info@bcbats.ca  or call 1-855-922-2287 ext. 24.

 

Photo by Marvin Moriarty, US Fish & Wildlife Service. The 2009 photo is from Vermont.

 

Deadly Bat Fungus in Washington State Likely Originated in Eastern U.S.

August 22, 2016

The US Geological Survey and US Forest Service confirmed in early August that the fungus responsible for White Nose Syndrome in bats, found in Washington in March 2016, is of North American origin. The fungus from Washington was most genetically similar to strains from the eastern US, where WNS has killed millions of bats. Please see the full press release at www.usgs.gov/news/deadly-bat-fungus-washington-state-likely-originated-eastern-us for more details.

The BC Community Bat Program continues to collaborate with the BC Government and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada to monitor and prepare for the arrival of the fungus in western Canada. To contact the BC Community Bat Program, see www.bcbats.ca, email info@bcbats.ca or call 1-855-922-2287.