BC annual bat count taking place this summer

Don't fear them, count them

Bats are getting a bum rap.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast bats in a negative light over concerns they carry the virus responsible for coronavirus.

And that is simply not true with such misinformation leading to unfounded fear and persecution of bats.

According to experts, the flying mammals are quite beneficial, consuming many insect pests every night.

Bats in the province are faced with numerous threats, and almost half of BC's 15 species are ‘at-risk.’ One of the more familiar species, the Little Brown Myotis, is now endangered in Canada.

A simple way to support bats is to participate in the BC annual bat count this June.

The BC Community Bat Program is requesting colony reports and volunteer assistance for this citizen-science initiative that encourages residents to count bats at local roost sites.

Bat counts are easy, safe and vital for monitoring bat populations.

“The counts are a wonderful way for people to get outside, respect social distancing guidelines, and be involved in collecting important scientific information,” said Ella Braden, coordinator of the Okanagan Community Bat Program. “Volunteers wait outside a known roost site, such as a bat- box, barn, or attic, and count bats as they fly out at twilight.”

Ideally, one or two counts are done between June 1-21 before pups are born, and one or two more between July 11 and Aug. 5 when pups are flying.

In 2019, the annual count collected baseline data on bat populations at 337 sites across the province. The count data helps bat biologists understand bat distribution and normal variation in colony sizes before bats face impacts from a devastating bat disease called White-nose Syndrome, an introduced fungal disease, fatal for bats but not for other animals or humans.

Not yet identified in BC, the disease continues to spread in Washington State. Results from the bat count may help prioritize areas in BC for research into treatment options and recovery actions.

“We know relatively little about bats in BC, including basic information on population numbers,” said Braden. “This information is more valuable than ever, particularly if it is collected annually. If people want to get involved but don’t have a roost site on their property, we will try to match them with a roost site nearby.”

To find out more about bat counts or white-nose syndrome, to report a dead bat, or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit www.bcbats.ca, call 1-855-9BC- BATS ext. 13 or email [email protected]

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