WANTED: Public reports of bat activity during the winter months


The Kootenay Region’s bats are gone for the winter and their whereabouts are currently unknown, so biologists are asking interested citizens for reports about bats found hibernating during the cold season.

“During summer, we receive a lot of reports from residents who have bats roosting on their property in houses, barns or sheds,” Juliet Craig, coordinating biologist for the Kootenay Community Bat Project. “However, we have very little information about where these bats go in winter.”

With the fungal disease White Nose Syndrome (WNS) killing millions of bat in eastern North America, this is a significant question. WNS has had such an impact on bat species that at least one, the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), was emergency listed as Endangered on the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2014 because of sudden and dramatic declines in the East. This species is common here in BC and, like other bat species is spectacularly important for insect control. Please click here and here to read past Revelstoke Current stories about WNS.

Craig said that, in the winter, local bats have been reported to hibernate in caves, rock crevices or abandoned mines, but only a few specific locations in the Kootenay region are known.

“There is increasing anecdotal evidence that they might hibernate either singly or in small numbers in human-created habitats such as buildings, chimneys, firewood piles, etc,” she said in a statement.

WNS is currently not detected west of the Rockies, but is predicted to arrive in British Columbia during the next five to 10 years.

“One of the first steps to managing the disease impacts is to better understand bat behaviour and habitat use in the winter,” Craig said. “By locating the winter hibernation sites, biologists hope to prevent inadvertent disease introduction and protection of these sites will be essential for recover of populations should disease arrive and devastate local populations.

“Programs like the Kootenay Community Bat Project are in place to collect information from the public on bat populations with the intention of aiding in the conservation of bats and their habitats. Reports from the public about bat hibernacula are extremely important for bat conservation in the province”.

Residents from the Kootenays are urged to report winter bat sightings to the online government reporting tool at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wildlife/wsi/incidental_obs.htm. Information of particular importance is the location of the roosting sites, so please provide the exact location so the site can be located again in future years. Unusual behaviour such as flying during the day, how many bats were at the site, and a general description are also important. It is very important that the bats should not be disturbed and so in most cases just select ‘Bats’ for the Species field and enter the number observed under ‘Unknown age and sex.’

If these sites are from caves or mines, Craig also encouraged observers to contact http://www.BatCaver.org, a citizen science effort by Alberta and BC cavers to help locate bats hibernating in underground locations.

For more information on bats in the Kootenays, please go to www.kootenaybats.com.