Hibernating Little Brown Bats showing visible signs of the fungus. (Photo by Alan Hicks, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

Kootenay Community Bat Project needs help monitoring for bat disease

They are looking for reports of dead bats and bats flying during winter

B.C. bats are threatened by disease, and researchers are again asking for the public to help.

White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America, has moved to the west coast.

Confirmed in Washington State just 150 km south of the B.C.-US border, the presence of the fungus is very worrisome for the health of our bat populations.

The disease has near 100 per cent mortality for some species of bats exposed to the fungus, including the familiar Little Brown Bat. Although devastating for bats, the syndrome does not affect humans.

The Kootenay Community Bat Project, in collaboration with the B.C. government, is requesting the public’s help in monitoring the spread of this disease.

“We believe that our bats hibernate in relatively small groups across the province” says Leigh Anne Isaac, the project’s Coordinating Biologist. “Detecting [the syndrome] in our province will require many eyes on the ground”.

The typical first sign of this disease is bats flying during the winter, an unusual sighting at a time of year when bats should be hibernating.

Another sign of the presence of the syndrome is the appearance of dead bats outdoors as they succumb to the effects of the syndrome.

“We are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to the [projects] toll-free phone number, website, or email. Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing for White Nose Syndrome and would provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in B.C.,” says Isaac.

Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.

If you find a dead bat, report it to program as soon as possible for further information.

Never touch a dead bat with your bare hands.

Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with the bat you will need further information regarding the risk of rabies to you and your pet.

Currently there are no treatments for the syndrome. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations with the resilience to rebound.

This is where the program and the general public can help.

Funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of the East and Central Kootenays, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Forest Enhancement Society of BC, Province of BC and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the program works with the government and others on public outreach activities, public reports of roosting bats in buildings, and our citizen-science bat monitoring program.

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