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Kootenay bat experts worried about spread of White Nose Syndrome to Washington

A little brown bat displaying White-Nose Syndrome. - Marvin Moriarty, US Fish & Wildlife Service
A little brown bat displaying White-Nose Syndrome.
— image credit: Marvin Moriarty, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Contributed by the Kootenay Columbia Bay Project

On March 31, 2016, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that White-Nose Syndrome had been detected on a dead bat near Seattle, Washington. This is very worrisome for the health of bat populations in British Columbia. The BC Community Bat Program in collaboration with BC government and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada is developing a rapid response to this emerging crisis.

“We knew this deadly fungus that kills bats was moving westward across North America” says Juliet Craig, coordinator of the Kootenay Community Bat Project (KCBP) and BC Community Bat Program, “but we thought we had many years to prepare”.

Currently there are no known treatments for White Nose Syndrome that can be used to save bats in the wild. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations the resilience to rebound from the mortality that may be caused by the disease. This is where the KCBP and the general public can help.

“Although White-Nose Syndrome affects bats in caves, it will be during springtime when bats return to building roosts that we have our best chance at detecting the presence of the disease, making the work of our community bat program more important than ever before” continues Craig.

Funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the KCBP conducts public outreach activities, responds to public reports of roosting bats in buildings, promotes the installation of bat houses, and coordinates a citizen-science bat monitoring program.

“We are asking the public to report dead bats to the toll-free phone number or email below and to also provide information on bat roosts. Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing of White-Nose Syndrome and may provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in BC” says Craig.

If you find a dead bat, be sure not to touch it with your bare hands. Collect it in a bag and label the bag with the date, location and your name, and then put the bag in the freezer. Contact the KCBP as soon as possible for shipping directions and further information.

The KCBP also encourages residents to report bat roosting sites in building structures, such as attics, sheds and bat houses, to help identify where certain species are present; if you are needing to evict bats from a structure, you are encouraged to contact the KCBP who can provide information on proper procedures to follow.

Read more:

Parks Canada has been researching bats in Glacier National Park since 2013 in order to prepare for the eventual spread of White-Nose Syndrome to the park. Read about their work here:

Nakimu Caves expedition researches bat disease

Researchers find bats in Glacier National Park

 

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