Eavesdropping on bats

A team of local researchers are monitoring bat populations in the province using bat detectors as part of the North American Bat Monitoring Program.

This continent-wide program aims to monitor bat species distributions and relative abundance over time.

This information is particularly important in B.C., since White Nose Syndrome, the disease that is decimating bat populations in the eastern part of the continent, was recently confirmed in Washington and is expected to arrive in British Columbia soon.

“By monitoring populations this year, we will have baseline data before White Nose Syndrome reaches our province, if it hasn’t already," said Dr. Cori Lausen, bat specialist with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. “This annual monitoring will better allow us to understand the impact of this disease as it spreads to our bats in B.C.”

The program samples 10-kilometre areas using acoustic devices that record the echolocation calls of bats. Bat detectors record the bat calls and the bat species can be identified using special software.

In addition, driving transects are conducted using a microphone attached to the roof of a car.

“It’s our form of a bat mobile," said Juliet Craig, who is co-ordinating NABat in BC. “We drive at 30 kilometres an hour down a road in one direction and listen in on the echolocation calls through the bat detector, which brings them down to a frequency we can hear. Then it’s like opening a present to find out which species were flying by.”

Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Columbia Basin Trust, the BC team will be sampling regions throughout the province over the next five summers.

Biologist Tanya Luszcz is monitoring bats in the Okanagan.

"It is exciting to be doing surveys here since the Okanagan has the highest diversity of bat species in Canada. Yet we still know so little about local bat populations," she said. 

"We also would really appreciate help from the public in identifying bat roosts and establishing bat counts at roost sites throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen."

For more information go to www.bcbats or contact the Okanagan Community Bat Program at [email protected] or 1-855-922-2287.

The website is a comprehensive resource, providing information on attracting bats and managing them in buildings.


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