Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada
Battle for the Bats: White-nose syndrome hits Newfoundland
News

Battle for the Bats: White-nose syndrome hits Newfoundland

We silently crouched in a small open field, eyes strained and scanning the horizon as the last of  the sun’s rays dipped from view. In the midst of summer, we waited on the outskirts of a small coastal town in Newfoundland, ready for the action to begin. A cacophony of squeaks vibrated through the air above, before a lone furry silhouette darted into the night. Finally, the moment we were waiting for is here. One by one, the bats emerged from a hole in the side of an old building, no bigger than an inch. It was surrealbefore us flew countless acrobats, twisting and gliding through the air. As the mosquitoes buzzed around our awestruck faces, a bat suddenly swooped in from behind me to snap up the insect, barely a foot away from my face. The only evidence of the encounter was the lingering gust of wind from its passing wingbeat. I had never seen so many bats in my entire life as almost a hundred took to the night sky. It’s hard to imagine that soon this roost will be all but wiped out. This sobering thought is all because of a seemingly small and insignificant fungusa white fluffy organism that grows on a handful of bat species. This fungus is at the heart of white-nose syndrome, an epidemic that is single-handedly decimating bat populations across the continent. Once a bat is infected, the disease causes them to wake up mid-hibernation. Caught in the cold of winter, they quickly run through their energy stores before the relief of spring. Mortality rates in infected hibernacula can range upwards of 75%, meaning that entire roosts can be wiped out in a single season.  For a long time, white-nose syndrome was landlocked, reaching from Manitoba to the Maritimes. With Newfoundland separated from mainland Canada, scientists hoped that the island could act as an ideal bat refuge. However, in 2018, in a tranquil town only a ten-minute drive from the roost I was in awe of, one of the first recorded cases of white-nose syndrome in Newfoundland was discovered. The beginning of the end. With the disease able to spread over 200 kilometres per year, it won’t be long until the entire island is impacted. It’s hard to imagine returning to this spot next year with baited breath, to see if this currently vibrant roost has become yet another casualty. The odds aren't looking good. [caption id="attachment_38640" align="alignleft" width="300"] © Brett Forsyth[/caption] The loss of these bats can be even more keenly felt than just being a lost source of wonder. They are integral not only to the ecosystem, but to us humans. For example, as the bats swooped and swirled around us, they were picking off the mosquitoes diligently attacking any exposed skin. While some southern bat species are fruit-eaters and excellent pollinators, bats in Canada exclusively eat insects. They consume thousands of bugs, not only making them an important part of the food chain, but also phenomenal natural pest controllers. As bat numbers dwindle, this means that more insects are making it to our plants and crops, therefore negatively impacting the agricultural industry. The devastating reach of white-nose syndrome extends far beyond the roost. There is currently no cure for white-nose syndrome. I can not begin to describe how hard it is to write this—it feels like too hopeless of a statement to voice out loud. However, scientists are racing to find a solution. Some strategies include using bacteria, UV light, or chemicals to prevent fungal growth. While these methods haven’t found widespread success, at least they offer a glimmer of hope that we may be able to save these bat species. While scientists are working to find the cure, there is plenty that we, as citizen scientists, can do to help. For example, The Canadian Wildlife Federation has outlined a myriad of ways that we can be heroes for bats; from reporting bat sightings on iNaturalist, to adding plants to the garden that attract bats’ prey, there’s no limit to the ways you can make a difference. If you live in the Ottawa area, you can even borrow Nature Canada’s bat detectors and conduct your own bat surveys in your neighbourhood. Another way to help is to add bat boxes to your property. These shelters provide useful roosting sites, especially in urban centers where suitable habitats are in low supply. There are still many of ways to fight back. As I look back on my mesmerizing bat encounter, I choose to remember it as a wakeup call. A chance for me to get active and get this story out there. To give a voice to the countless wings that darted around me on that summer night. It’s easy to fall into a stupor of hopelessness, where we choose inaction as the easiest pathafter all, why bother trying to solve the seemingly unfixable? It’s by us standing up, raising awareness, and caring that makes all the difference. It’s time to battle for the bats.

Dispatches from Noway Lake: Home is where the bats are
News

Dispatches from Noway Lake: Home is where the bats are

[caption id="attachment_34825" align="alignleft" width="150"]kathleen-1 Kathleen Lippa, Guest Blogger[/caption]  This blog is written by guest blogger Kathleen Lippa. It’s been five years since my husband and I installed a bat house (or bat box, as they are often called) near our house on Norway Lake, in the heart of the Ottawa Valley. I’m now thinking about moving it - maybe attaching the bat box to the side of our house. I invite readers knowledgeable about bat houses to weigh in on this. I’ve come to deeply respect bats since moving to the lake. The well-being of bats is vital to the health of our ecosystem. I once believed myths about bats being blood-thirsty neck-chompers. And yes, bats can be dangerous - they can carry rabies, so care is needed when dealing with them. But since connecting with nature out at Norway Lake, I understand how desperately our planet needs bats. Their insect and pest control abilities are well documented and much appreciated (Bat Conservation International has been a wonderful resource for me). Bats pollinate plants, and disperse seeds brilliantly. And their poo, or guano, is an effective plant fertilizer. When I first encountered bats in our loft I was terrified. The last one I dealt with was a Little brown bat who was wedged in our door frame, and flew in during a power outage. After screaming and waving my arms around a lot, I got a large cooking pot, put it over the bat when it was sleeping (hanging upside down on our window screen at dawn) and slid a piece of cardboard over top to get him outside. Those sharp little claws ( I should have worn gloves) and high-pitched wailing was ghastly. He was just as scared as I was. Probably more. But we got him back in nature, where he belongs. testThe next step was: How to keep bats out? I soon realized that the question should be, how to get them IN to their own safe situation. We talked to our neighbors about bats, and they wisely recommended getting a local craftsperson to build us a bat box. I was clueless about the process. I have since learned that bat boxes or houses can be incredibly helpful to the survival of bats. The Little Brown Bat, which we have at our lake, can be found naturally roosting under bridges, eaves, abandoned mines, and rock ledges. There are only two species of bats in Ontario that are known to use human structures as summer maternity colony habitat and Little Brown Bats is one of those species. They are listed as endangered, as it is threatened by White-nose Syndrome. White-nose syndrome is a fungus that spreads on a bat’s skin and causes a white, fuzzy appearance on the nose, wings or ears. The fungus infects bats’ winter hibernation cycle as it causes them to use up body fat supplies before spring when they once again go looking for food. For their own bat house, this is what I’ve learned so far: A bat house must be near a water source. On this, we get full marks, right next to a lake. It should be 12 to 20 feet off the ground. The house needs full sun at least four hours a day. It also should be painted black – keeps the heat in better. In our climate, this is important. And it should be near a mix of agriculture. Again, Norway Lake ticks that box. There are a number of specific design details going on inside the house our box maker followed, keeping in line with Bat Conservation International guidelines. Where I’m looking to improve is the location of the house itself. Right now, it’s mounted on a tree. This is not great, as predators such as cats and other animals could disturb this home. I would also like it mounted on a slant to prevent babies from falling out when they initially leave the tight cling of their mothers. I’ve also read that erecting a number of bat boxes together can increase likelihood of successful bat roosting, especially in a generally cool climate like ours in the Ottawa Valley. I will have to see how this can be achieved.

What YOU can do to help bats:

>Report bat sightings that strike you as unusual, and worth investigating. Knowledge is power. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry tracks species at risk/in danger like the Little Brown Bat. You can report any unusual bat behaviour or deaths to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at 1-866-673-4781 of the Natural Resources Information Centre at 1-800-667-1940. >Be a good steward - build a bat box! www.batcon.org is a wealth of helpful information about the proper construction of bat houses. In future blogs from Norway Lake, I will let you know what we are doing about our bat house, and if moving it has made a difference. Ideally, hundreds of bats would roost there, and we continue to do our bit for the environment.

Going batty! Discover 5 Canadian bats
News

Going batty! Discover 5 Canadian bats

[caption id="attachment_31795" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Amanda Simard Amanda Simard, Writing Intern[/caption] This blog was written by writing intern Amanda Simard. It’s bat appreciation day! To celebrate, learn more about the bats that live near you. Dracula had been giving bats a bad rep, and they are oft misunderstood creatures. Did you know only 0.3% of bats actually drink blood? Many eat only fruit or pollen, and others are the ultimate bug zappers, ridding you of those pesky mosquitoes by the thousands! If you thought bats were scary, think again! Many are actually quite cute. Between being a flying mammal and using echolocation, bats are certainly interesting creatures. Here are a few species you might find living near you.

Northern Myotis

 image of a Nothern Myotis  
Scientific name: Myotis septentrionalis
Canadian Range: BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, PEI, NS, NL, NT, YT
COSEWIC status: Endangered
SARA status: Endangered
Description: weight 4.3-10.8 g; length about 7.8 cm; wingspan 23-26 cm A small brown bat with a long, slender and pointed tragus, and ears that extend past the nose when pressed forward.
 

Little Brown Myotis

 image of a Little Brown Myotis  
Scientific name: Myotis lucifugus 
Canadian Range: BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, PEI, NS, NL, NT, YT
COSEWIC status: Endangered
SARA status: Endangered
Description: weight 5.5-11.0 g; length 6-10.2 cm; wingspan 22-27 cm A small brown bat with a short blunt tragus.
 

Hoary Bat

 image of a Hoary Bat  
Scientific name: Lasiurus cinereus
Canadian Range: BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, QC, NB, NS, NL, NT
COSEWIC status: no status
SARA status: no status
Description: weight 20-30 g; length 13-15 cm; wingspan about 43 cm A bat with white-tinged grey-brown fur, giving it a frosty appearance. Its ears are short, broad, and rounded, and it has a blunt, rounded nose.
 

Red Bat

 image of a Red Bat Figure 1 "Eastern Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis), roosting at "Griffy Lake", Bloomington, IN. " by Chris Harshaw is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Scientific name: Lasiurus borealis
Canadian Range: MB, SK, ON, QC, NB, NS, PEI
COSEWIC status: no status
SARA status: no status
Description: weight 7-13 g; length 9.3-11.7 cm A medium-sized bat with red fur that is white tipped.
 

Big Brown Bat

 image of a Big Brown Bat
Scientific name: Eptesicus fuscus
Canadian Range: BC, AB, MB, SK, ON, QC, NB
COSEWIC status: no status
SARA status: no status
Description: weight around 23 g; length 11-13 cm; wingspan about 33 cm A brown bat with a lighter underside. Its ears are rounded with a broad, rounded tragus, and it has a broad nose.
More Canadian bats and where to find them
BC AB SK MB ON QC NB NS PE NL NT YT NU
Northern Myotis x x x x x x x x x x x x
Little Brown Myotis x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Eastern Small-footed Myotis x x
Red Bat x x x x x x x
Hoary Bat x x x x x x x x x x x
Silver-haired Bat x x x x x x x x x
Big Brown Bat x x x x x x x
Tri-coloured Bat x x x x
California Myotis x
Fringed Bat x
Keen's Long-eared Bat x
Long-eared Myotis x x x
Long-legged Myotis x x
Townsend's Big-eared Bat x
Western Small-footed Myotis x x x
Yuma Myotis x
Spotted Bat x
Pallid Bat x
SARA status : Endangered; Threatened; Special Concern Eager to spot the bats living in your neighbourhood? Don’t forget you can rent a bat detector through Nature Canada! To do so, please contact Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager, at jsturdy@naturecanada.ca.
Which bats have you spotted lately? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter! Acknowledgements: COSEWIC, IUCN Red List, and Animal Diversity Web
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Discover more about the nature you love.

Monarchs & Nighthawks – Day 1 of our July NatureBlitz (Part 1 of 3)
News

Monarchs & Nighthawks – Day 1 of our July NatureBlitz (Part 1 of 3)

During one of the hottest weekends in July, Nature Canada beat the heat with a NatureBlitz held in Ottawa’s Carlington Woods area. The 24-hour event on July 18th & 19th (see the schedule here) was a great success and featured guided walks with local plant and wildlife experts, children’s activities, fun with ultrasonic bat detectors, and a live amphibian demonstration by the Ontario-based group, Save the Salamanders. On behalf of Nature Canada, we would like to thank our volunteers, our experts and the public on coming out! [caption id="attachment_21907" align="alignleft" width="300"]Group participating in a nature walk during the July 2015 NatureBlitz at Carlington Woods The NatureBlitz featured a number of guided group walks, each exploring a different set of organisms at the site. Photo: Susanne Ure[/caption] So what is a NatureBlitz? It’s very much like a BioBlitz, i.e., an effort to inventory as many living things as possible in a given area during a given time, usually 24 hours). However, our NatureBlitz events are more focused on building awareness and educating the public – by helping urban residents explore and experience nearby nature right in their communities. These events are one of the public engagement tools used in our NatureHood program. Like a traditional BioBlitz, our NatureBlitzes take place over 24 hours, include a tally of all the species we observe, and are open to anyone – especially nature-newbies! While we carefully record all of the species we observe throughout the event and during each walk, we also address two important barriers to nature engagement for many people: knowledge and the ‘intimidation factor’. We do this by sharing fun facts, encouraging appropriate hands-on exploration and experiences of nature, and by interpreting the plants, wildlife and local environment for participants. Sound like fun? We chose Carlington Woods for this summer’s NatureBlitz given its mature trees, the large diversity of birds it is known to host, and the unique ecological setting of the NCC owned property. The entire forest is surrounded by busy streets and dense urban neighborhoods, and that is exactly what piqued our interest. We wondered, can this island of forest hold any species that we would not expect to find within a bustling city? We’re happy to report that the NatureBlitz showcased just how important isolated pockets of urban forest can be. Not surprisingly they’re safe-havens for wildlife, including species at risk! [caption id="attachment_21908" align="alignright" width="300"]Man examines a tree branch Local plant expert, Owen Clarkin, shows participants the tricks for identifying a Bitternut Hickory during his Trees & Shrubs walk on Saturday. Photo: Susanne Ure[/caption] Our first event on the Saturday was a trees & shrubs walk, led by local plant expert, Owen Clarkin. A species of interest was the Butternut tree (Juglans cinerea), which is found peppered throughout this NCC-owned property. Currently, the tree is being attacked by a fungal disease, Butternut canker, and is being wiped out of much of its native range in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. The butternut is a nationally and provincially endangered species, protected by law. Nature Canada’s own Alex MacDonald hosted two back-to-back events on Saturday: an insect walk and a children’s scavenger hunt. With a large crowd, Alex led visitors out with butterfly nets and temporary sampling containers to catch what they could find. Beetles, butterflies, bees and grasshoppers seemed to be the stars of the walk. After the insect walk, the scavenger hunt attracted even more people, and as a reward, the kids got to exchange their sightings cards for our NatureHood species at risk trading card. The cards highlight 26 local species that are legally protected as special concern, threatened, or endangered, including the Butternut tree and the monarch butterfly – each of which was observed during the walks! The evening bird walk had some interesting finds. Led again by Alex MacDonald, the group saw (and heard) lots of Grey Catbirds, some Black-crowned Night Herons flying over, and even a Brown Thrasher. The group even spotted a provincially and nationally threatened species:  the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). This nocturnal species’ main food source is flying insects. With the large-scale use of pesticides, and the resulting pollution of downstream waterways where many flying insects breed, coupled again with habitat loss and the perils of migration, there has been a widespread decline in Common Nighthawks across Canada. The species considered at-risk with a "special concern" designation in Ontario. [caption id="attachment_21910" align="alignleft" width="200"]Girl examining contents of a bug-net One of our scavenger hunt participants checks to see if there's a lady beetle in her net. Photo: Susanne Ure[/caption] Our bat walk at dusk proved to be quite a popular choice for people, as well! Not only did we hear these amazing flying mammals, we also saw them! Flying overhead and probably catching the mosquitoes trying to bite us, we used an array of handheld bat detectors to ‘hear’ the ultrasonic echolocation signals – similar to sonar - of the bats at frequencies audible to human ears. By tuning the detectors to different frequencies and listening to changes in the quality of the sound, it’s possible (with practice!) to get a sense of which species may be flying overhead. The species we detected included the Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus; confirmed visually) and either the endangered Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) or the Tri-coloured Bat/Eastern Pipestrelle (Perimyotis subflavus). It's a case of 'either, or' because those two species echolocate at roughly the same frequencies, both can have light undersides (which we observed) and the habitat at Carlington Woods is suitable for both. We’re conducting follow-up assessments in the area and reviewing our audio recordings from the night to reach a conclusion on the latter two. Take a listen to what bat echolocation sounds like within our hearing range below! Pssst! Nature Canada now offers a FREE public bat detector lending library for anyone in the National Capital Region interested in borrowing one! Contact us here to inquire. [audio wav="http://naturecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/bat-walk-3-Carlington-Woods-NatureBlitz.wav"][/audio]   A big thanks to Nicolas Conroy, Nature Canada's NatureHood Conservation Intern, who prepared a draft of this post!

To be continued…

Financial assistance for this project has been provided by: Govt of Ontario logo

White Swan logo (white)

Help us Find At-risk Bats in your NatureHood!
News

Help us Find At-risk Bats in your NatureHood!

Alex MacDonald, click for contact informationHave you ever wondered if there are bats in your neighbourhood? What about your yard? If so, Nature Canada can help you answer this question with the handheld bat detectors we have available through our lending library! If you live in the National Capital Region, you can borrow a detector - free of charge - for up to one week. [caption id="attachment_23140" align="alignright" width="200"]Close-up of an Eastern Pipistrelle bat hanging upside down in a cave, species at risk, Canada, nature, nocturnal The Eastern Pipistrelle is a migratory bat found in southeastern Canada and the eastern United States. It feeds on flying insects most actively during the crepuscular period at dawn and dusk.[/caption] But we're not doing this for just any reason. Here's the scoop: Have you heard about White-nose Syndrome (WNS), an introduced fungal disease (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) that's decimating many bat populations in North America? Estimates place the death toll from WNS at over 6 million bats since it was first detected in North America in 2006 (read Ontario's response plan here). Sadly, populations of up to 7 different bat species found in and around Ottawa have been impacted by WNS, and 3 of those species currently legally designated as "endangered" by the Government of Ontario: Little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), Northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) and Eastern small-footed myotis (Myotis leibii). Given this situation we need to understand the habitats these bat species are using and how local populations are doing. That's where the bat detectors - and YOU - come in. Members of the public can borrow one of our Magenta Bat5 handheld bat detectors to ‘hear’ the ultrasonic echolocation signals – similar to sonar – that bats make as they fly, socialize and feed. Human ears are not capable of hearing sound in the frequency ranges at which most bats echolocate - that's why the frequencies are called "ultrasonic". The bat detectors pick up these ultrasonic signals and convert them into the audible range for humans, playing them for you in real-time through a speaker in the unit. Many bats echolocate at different frequencies, though there is just enough overlap between them to make things confusing! By 'tuning' the bat detector to hone in on particular frequencies, you can get a sense of  which species you may be detecting. With practice in the field, and [caption id="attachment_23169" align="alignleft" width="300"]Magenta Bat5 handheld bat detector shown with Peterson's Guide to the Mammals of North America You can borrow the Magenta Bat5 handheld bat detector (shown here) for up to 1-week using our lending library![/caption] following the tips we provide here, you can get pretty good at recognizing the different species. If you're interested in helping us monitor for the presence (or absence) of at-risk bat species in the National Capital Region, you can download the sign-out sheet here. Simply submit the form by email or drop it off when you pick up the detector at our office at 75 Albert Street (third floor, suite 300). And our data submission form is available online or as a hard-copy. You can use the detector in your backyard, in your neighbourhood or at a local park, or you might consider visiting one of the areas we're hoping to cover in our seasonal surveys (see map below).

Financial support for this project is provided by: Govt of Ontario logo White Swan logo (white)

Join our NatureBlitz! Nature Canada celebrates Moth Week in the capital!
News

Join our NatureBlitz! Nature Canada celebrates Moth Week in the capital!

[caption id="attachment_19913" align="alignleft" width="300"]Cedar Waxwing Join our NatureBlitz to see birds like these Cedar Waxwings![/caption]

Join Nature Canada and local nature experts for a NatureBlitz on Saturday, July 18th and Sunday, July 19th in Ottawa's Carlington Woods area! The event will feature walks, talks and presentations over a 24-hour period from 12pm Saturday until 12pm Sunday (map and full schedule below).

Help us explore your NatureHood, and try your hand at using an ultrasonic bat detector! NatureBlitzes are a great way to get outside and learn about nature with members of your community and local nature experts! This is the first survey of its kind in the Carlington Woods area and we hope to identify as many different living things as possible at the site (map below).

Visitor events will include themed guided walks during which guests can learn to identify the plants, birds, amphibian, reptiles and insects found in Carlington Woods. The walks will also have a special focus on local species at risk, including Little Brown and Northern Long-eared bats, Barn and Bank Swallows, Chimney Swifts and Monarch butterflies. So get your binoculars, hiking boots and flashlights ready and come join us as we get up close and personal with a world of mystery right outside your door. It's nearby nature! And it's your NatureHood! Don't have binoculars? No field guide? No flashlight? Don't worry! You can borrow one of ours. We have 8 pairs of binoculars, bilingual field guides and some head-lamps available to sign-out at the Nature Canada tent once you've registered for a guided walk. And we'll have handheld ultrasonic bat detectors available for sign-out, too! [caption id="attachment_16786" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of expert examining tree bark Jennifer is using a small hand held magnifying glass to examine the lichen on tree bark. Don't be afraid to look at the world from a new perspective. You might be surprised at the beautiful details that are easily overlooked.[/caption] Check the schedule to see which walk(s) you would like to join, or come out for all of them! Beginners, experts and especially kids and their families are welcome to this FREE event! We hope to see you there! Saturday, July 18, 2015 You've heard him present the "Tweet of the Week" on CBC, now join Alex MacDonald as he leads a scavenger hunt for kids and listens for evening birds. [caption id="attachment_21555" align="aligncenter" width="960"]NatureBlitz Schedule for Saturday, July 18 2015 Join us for afternoon, evening or nighttime walks on Saturday, July 18, 2015. We'll be celebrating National Moth Week with local experts and checking out which species of bats are flying around the area![/caption] Sunday, July 19, 2015 [caption id="attachment_21556" align="aligncenter" width="960"]NatureBlitz Schedule for Sunday, July 19 2015 Don't miss "Save the Salamanders" with Matt Ellerbeck at 11am, and rise with the early birds to join Emily Bird as she points out our feathered friends at 7am![/caption]   Please check-in and register at the Nature Canada tent when you arrive. The tent/basecamp for the event will be located at the end Morriset Avenue (1503 Morriset) just before the fence to the city's reservoir area. Look for the blue tent. [caption id="attachment_21568" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Map of Carlington Woods area, Ottawa, Ontario Carlington Woods is nestled between the communities of Carlington, Central Park and Copeland Park-Bel Air Heights-Braemar Park. Find us in the blue tent at the end of Morriset Avenue! Map provided by Google.[/caption]   A special Thank You to all the experts who will be sharing their expert knowledge and passion with us at this event! Financial support for this initiative is provided in part by through the Government of Ontario's Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, and White Swan. Govt of Ontario logo White Swan logo (white)

Myotis Bat Emergency Listing
News

Myotis Bat Emergency Listing

Alex 242x242 with title The Government of Canada recently added 3 bat species to Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), otherwise known as the official national list of wildlife species at risk. The three bat species – the Little Brown Myotis, Tri-coloured Bat, and Northern Myotis - are now under federal protection because of White-nose Syndrome (WNS), an epidemic that is decimating North American bat populations. White-nose syndrome is a fungal infection of the skin that expresses itself as white fuzzy growths on the nose, mouth, ears, and wings of a bat – hence its name. The fungus, called Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is actually best suited to grow in cool environments such as winter bat caves - called hibernacula. Once infected, the fungus causes the bats to awaken from their hibernation more easily, significantly depleting their built-up energy stores. This exhaustion of fat stores results in the bats starving to death because they run out of energy before they are able to feed again in the spring. This disease has killed up to 90% of some regions’ bat populations throughout northeastern North America. The Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis, and Tri-coloured Bat were once very common but with the spread of WNS, they are now considered endangered at a national level. Some provinces, including Ontario, have also listed these species as endangered under provincial species at risk legislation. In February 2012, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) conducted an emergency assessment on the three bat species to determine if their official legal status should be upgraded to “endangered”. Following COSEWIC’s recommendation that the Environment Minister issue an Emergency Order to protect the imperiled bats, the Government of Canada finally added the species to Schedule 1 of SARA on November 26, 2014 – 2 years following COSEWIC’s recommendation. WNS first appeared in New York State in 2006 and has since spread into Canada and throughout the United States. Today, White-nose Syndrome has been confirmed in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I, Ontario, and Quebec, as well as 25 US states. [caption id="attachment_19027" align="alignright" width="186"]Myotis Bat Little Brown Myotis (iStock)
Photo by US Fish & Wildlife Service[/caption] Fortunately, the fungus has not (yet) appeared in any other Canadian provinces, but nevertheless it continues to spread between bat hibernacula within the 5 eastern provinces where it has been confirmed. There is no cure for this fungal infection and in an effort to stem the spread of this lethal infection, provinces are closing bat caves to the public (including climbers) as the disease is thought to be spread in part by humans. Humans cannot contract the disease. In Canada, federal land accounts for on average just 5% of the total area of each province, meaning that provincial governments have a significant role in conserving these misunderstood and under-appreciated species. Some provinces committed to giving these species protection as soon as the full impact of WNS started to become known. However other provinces, such as PEI, have not yet given their affected bat species protection, further jeopardizing local populations of these important animals. Because there is no known cure, there is not much we can do in terms of saving the bats that have contracted WNS. But we can help by preventing the spread of the disease. Humans are suspected of being capable of spreading WNS spores on clothing and gear, so avoid going into caves that have bats in them. If you need to go into a bat cave – and you have appropriate permission to do so – be sure to disinfect all of your clothing and gear before and after you entering the cave. This will ensure that humans do not spread the disease. [caption id="attachment_19028" align="alignleft" width="247"]Bat with white-nose syndrome  -- Photo by US Fish & Wildlife Service Bat with White-nose Syndrome
Photo by US Fish & Wildlife Service[/caption] One of the most important things we can do is to get over the stigma that bats are harmful animals. Bats – even the species that feed on blood – are harmless to humans. While bats are capable of carrying rabies, the US Centers for Disease Control reports that less than 6% of all tested bats actually carry the disease – that is, VERY FEW bats actually carry rabies. More importantly, bats eat the insects that plague our crops, forests and us – thereby saving famers, governments and homeowners millions of dollars in pesticides and pest control each year. A single bat can eat over 1,000 small flying insects in just one hour. Just think of what a camping trip or evening on the lake might be like without any bats around… Perhaps once we have overcome the ‘evil’ brand we have placed on bats, we can help restore and maintain their populations, and accept bats as ‘friend’ instead of ‘foe’. And stay tuned to Nature Canada’s NatureHood program to learn how we’ll be engaging people in bat monitoring through our seasonal NatureBlitz events!

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.

Donate