As Halloween approaches, images of scary bats become commonplace. This is the perfect time of year to counter bat myths and do something to help bats, by taking part in International Bat Week (October 24-31). Bat Week is all about appreciating these amazing animals and their benefits, which in Canada centers around eating insects, and in other parts of the globe they additionally pollinate flowers, and spread seeds and nutrients.
This Bat Week, consider teaching your kids, grandkids, or friends about the wonderful lives of bats. How about preparing bat trivia questions for them? Take them to your local library and sign out bat books or dress up like a bat.
Contact your local nature centre, museum, or public park offices to see if they are offering any bat talks. Or if you want to get proactive, organize a bat event or party! You can find more information on bats at www.bcbats.ca or at www.batweek.org.
“In BC, there are at least 15 species of bats and they are all major predators of insects including moths, beetles, mosquitoes and flies,” says Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, Coordinator for the BC Community Bat Program. “A single bat can eat up to its body weight in insects each night. Eating all of these insects helps protect our food crops and forests from insect pests, saving farmers and forest managers billions of dollars each year.” No matter where you live, it is almost certain that there are bats living near you.
“Providing safe and healthy habitat for bats is critical, as over half the species in this province are considered at risk. Since the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome (WNS) was detected in Grand Forks last year, bat conservation is more important than ever. We expect to see impacts in BC in the near future,” says Rodriguez de la Vega. WNS is a fatal fungal disease that has killed millions of bats. It does not affect people or pets.
“To help us with WNS surveillance, report dead bats or sightings of winter bat activity to our website,” says Rodriguez de la Vega, who also cautions to never touch a live or dead bat. BC residents can help bats by following Bat Friendly Community guidelines, including protecting bat habitat, planting a bat-friendly garden, preventing bats from drowning in pools or rain barrels, keeping cats indoors or in catios, and much more.
Bat Week marks the time of year when bats disappear from our neighbourhoods, until the return of warmer weather in spring. As insect-eaters, our BC bats must leave their summer roost sites and migrate or hibernate to survive the winter. This absence means that this is the time of year to do home renovations that you have delayed due to bat presence. You can clean out and repair a bat box, or do bat-friendly exclusion work, without disturbing or injuring bats.
In partnership with the BC Government, and funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Forest Enhancement Society of BC, Habitat Stewardship Program, and local funders, the BC Community Bat Program provides information and promotes local stewardship and citizen science. You can report winter bat sightings, find out more about the BC Community Bat Program, Bat Week activities, and options for helping local bat populations, at www.bcbats.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1-855-922-2287.