Disease Threatens the Little Brown Bat: Researchers ask public for help
Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) with White-Nose Syndrome (photo credit: flickr)
B.C.’s bats, including the well-known Little Brown Bat, are threatened by a fungal disease headed towards the province from Alberta and Washington State. The Thetis Island Community Bat Program, in collaboration with the Province of BC, are asking the public for help in the effort to detect and prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). Residents are urged to report any bat activity observed in winter and any sick or dead bats found before May 31st.
White-Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that is harmless to humans, but has devastated North American bat populations. The fungus attacks bats while they are hibernating, appearing on their wings and faces to give an appearance of a white nose. Bats often wake to clean the fungus from their skin. This uses valuable energy, and finally the bats die from hypothermia and starvation. Across North America, millions of bats have been killed, and two BC species are now listed as Endangered. As a key predator for many night-flying insects, bats are essential parts of BC’s ecosystems and provide billions of dollars of economic benefit by helping control agricultural, forest, and urban pests.
First detected in New York State in 2006, the disease continues to spread, with detections on the west coast close to Seattle and in south-central Alberta. Biologists say the arrival of WNS in BC is imminent. Increasing the number of reports from the public is the best chance to understand how WNS might spread and affect local bat populations. Though there is not yet a proven cure for WNS, several promising treatment options are being developed, and it may be possible to mitigate the effects of this wildlife health crisis.
If you find a dead bat or have sightings of winter bat activity on Thetis Island please report to Rob Welsh B.C. Community Bat Program Coordinator at 250-246-1547 or firstname.lastname@example.org, online at www.bcbats.ca , via email at email@example.com or by calling 1-855-922-2287 (1-855-GOT-BATS). All live bats should be left alone — keep your distance, snap a photo and report it to the B.C. Community Bat Program. If you must move a bat, visit www.bcbats.ca for advice and never touch a 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.
In partnership with the BC Ministry of Environment, and funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Forest Enhancement Society of BC, Habitat Stewardship Program, and ThINC, the BC Community Bat Program provides information and promotes local stewardship and citizen science. You can find out more about the BC Community Bat Program and options for helping local bat populations at www.bcbats.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1-855-922-2287, or Rob Welsh 250-246-1547.