Have you seen hibernating bats this winter?

Biologists are requesting reports from citizens of bats found hibernating during the cold season. In the winter, bats have been reported to hibernate in caves, rock crevices or abandoned mines, but most specific locations in BC are unknown. We also have increasing anecdotal evidence that they might hibernate either singly or in small numbers in human created habitat such as buildings, chimneys, firewood piles etc.

 

The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) was emergency listed as Endangered on the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2014 because of sudden and dramatic declines across the eastern portions of the ranges. These declines are the direct result of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in eastern North America during their winter hibernation.

WNS is currently not detected west of the Rockies, but is predicted in British Columbia during the next five to ten years. One of the first steps to managing the disease impacts is to better understand bat behaviour and habitat use in the winter. By locating the winter hibernation sites, biologists hope to prevent inadvertent disease introduction and protection of these sites will be essential for recover of populations should disease arrive and devastate local populations.

Residents from BC are urged to report winter bat sightings to the online government reporting tool at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wildlife/wsi/incidental_obs.htm. Information of particular importance is the location of the roosting sites (provide exact location so the site can be located again in future years), unusual behaviour such as flying during the day, how many bats were at the site, and a general description. It is very important that the bats should not be disturbed and so in most cases just select “bats” for the Species field and enter the number observed under “Unknown age and sex”. If these sites are from caves or mines, we also encourage you to contact http://www.BatCaver.org, a citizen science effort by Alberta and BC cavers to help locate bats hibernating in underground locations.