South Vancouver Island Community Bat Program
Habitat Acquisition Trust coordinates the south Vancouver Island Community Bat Program. HAT is a regional land trust that works to help people understand and care for nature. With Biologist Christian Engelstoft and HAT’s outreach programs, information about the distribution of bats and what species occur in the region is being gathered. HAT’s program will assist homeowners to learn how to live with bats, how to create and/or enhance habitat for bats, or how to safely exclude them if necessary.
What we do
HAT’s Community Bat Program coordinates the Vancouver Island region for the Annual Bat Count, helps locate and map existing colonies, conducts acoustic monitoring of select sites, collects guano for DNA sampling, and helps home owners install bat boxes or guide them on best practices for excluding bats.
The Annual Bat Count
With other Community Bat Programs across BC, HAT is helping to coordinate the Annual Bat Count, a citizen science program to annually monitor bat populations in roost sites. Abandoned houses, barns, church steeples – and even currently-occupied structures – can provide a summer home to female bats and their young. Monitoring these “maternity colonies” can give biologists a good idea of how bat populations in an area are doing from year to year. With the occurrence of White-nose Syndrome in North America, monitoring these colonies is more important than ever.
Ideally, the Annual Bat Count includes four counts during the summer – two between June 1 and 21 (before pups can fly) and two between July 11 and August 5 (when pups are flying and exiting the roost with their mothers). Doing all four bat counts allows us to best compare data from year to year and between sites. However, if you don’t have time, you can choose your level of participation.
If you are interested in volunteering your time, contact us at 250 995-2428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bat Houses and Habitat Enhancement
In natural settings, bats would roost in wildlife trees. Wildlife trees are dead or dying trees with hollow middles, flaking bark, and insect-riddled wood that provide important habitat to bats, many birds, and other wildlife. Unfortunately, most wildlife trees in the Victoria area have been removed for safety or aesthetic reasons. Bat houses, like bird houses, provide roosts in areas where little natural habitat remains. If you are interested in a bat house for your property, please contact us.
Many people are uncomfortable with bats in their home or outbuildings. One of our goals is to help people who feel it is necessary to remove bats from their buildings do so in a way that limits any harm to the bats. HAT will visit homeowners with bat colonies and help them develop a plan to exclude the bats and provide some alternate place for them to roost and raise their young. We will help you identify what time of year to exclude the bats, what renovations will reduce the chances of bats re-occupying your home, and find place for a bat house for colony to use. Contact us if you have a colony and would like help with exclusions. HAT is also establishing relationships with local pest control agencies to inform about best practices for dealing with bats in peoples’ homes.
To learn more about bats, HAT uses a bat detector to do acoustic monitoring of bats and their colonies. With bats’ rich array of echolocation behaviour and a bat detector we can learn what species are in a colony (often more than 1 species occupies the same site), and learn what times of day and seasons bats are most active. Understanding bat behaviour, for instance when pups first start to fly, is an important part of being able to have an effective conservation program. Acoustic monitoring is completely non-invasive – the detector simply listens to the bat echolocation calls.
In partnership with the Ministry of Environment, HAT is collecting guano for DNA analysis. This will provide the most accurate information about which species are in an area, and how those species relate to one another. Guano is collected from the ground below the colony, and there is no need to interfere with the bats.
HAT is mapping bat colonies so that non-invasive monitoring can be carried out (such as guano collection and acoustic monitoring).
In addition to the BC Community Bat Program Funders, HAT is supported by: Mountain Equipment Co-op, Lush, Victoria Natural History Society and private donors. We acknowledge the support of the Province of British Columbia for our Good Neighbours Strategy programs.
Christian Engelstoft, RPBio, has working with HAT to locate and help steward species at risk since 2004. Christian is the Scientific Advisor to the Sharp-tailed Snake and Western Painted Turtle Recovery Teams. His studies have been published in a number of journals. He is in charge of coordinating visits and bat counts, meeting with landowners to enhance habitat for bats.
Estraven Lupino-Smith is coordinating HAT’s Community Bat Program and assisting with HAT’s response to White-nose syndrome on Vancouver Island.
Katie Blake is HAT’s Executive Director.
Paige Erickson-McGee, BSc, is HAT’s Stewardship Coordinator. She is coordinating volunteers and bat counters for the program, as well as leading home visits.