Become a citizen scientist with the BC Annual Bat Count

Bat count at Okangan Lake Provincial Park_photo by Paula Rodirguez de la Vega

The BC Community Bat Program is calling for volunteers to get involved in the BC Annual Bat Count. Starting June 1st, bat biologists and volunteers will be enjoying late nights, counting bats at maternity roosts throughout the province.

“Female bats roost together in summer and raise their young in maternity colonies,” says Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, provincial coordinator for the BC Community Bat Program. “They generally only have one pup per female in June.” The males do not help with raising the young and usually roost by themselves in large trees, rock cliffs, boulder fields, or barns and building.

The Annual Bat Count involves sitting outside a bat maternity roost at sunset, and for an hour, counting all the bats that come out of that roost. “The maternity roosts that we count are in buildings, bat boxes, or bridges” says Rodriguez de la Vega.

Last year, volunteers conducted 888 bat counts at 274 different maternity roost sites across the province. “The data collected is really important as it helps us know how the bat populations are doing in BC,” says Rodriguez de la Vega. “We usually do 4 bat counts at every roost site – two in June to count just the females and two more starting mid-July when the pups are learning to fly.”

Begun in 2012, the Annual Bat Count is the only long-term monitoring program focussed on bat summer roosts in BC. The counts help biologists monitor bat populations and track impacts to or recovery of species. If populations decline, it could indicate impacts from white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that has decimated bat populations in eastern Canada and USA. The fungus that causes WNS was detected in 2022 in the Grand Forks region of BC, but WNS itself has not been detected yet in BC.

“A large number of the roost site we count, house Little Brown Myotis and Yuma Myotis, both of which are susceptible to white-nose syndrome,” says Rodriguez de la Vega.

Bats in 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. Please report a bat colony or sign up to help with bat counts here, info@bcbats.ca, or 1-855-922-2287 ext.20. In partnership with the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, the BC Community Bat Program provides information and promotes local stewardship and citizen science. The program runs thanks to funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the Habitat Stewardship Program, and many regional partners.