Household cats pose one of the biggest threats to bats in the BC Interior and beyond

Cats a threat to bats

Bats may not rate high on the cute and cuddly scale, but the flying mammals play an important role in the ecosystem.

According to the BC SPCA, bats perform valuable ecosystem services as pollinators, seed dispersers and insect predators. In Canada, bat species only eat bugs — including mosquitos and spiders.

B.C. has the greatest diversity of bats in Canada, with 15 of the country’s 19 species calling the province home. Because of their nocturnal lifestyle, it can come as a surprise to some that bats are among the most common wildlife in BC cities.

However, bats are among the most endangered animals in the world, facing threats from habitat loss, pesticides, diseases, introduced predators, climate change and persecution.

In B.C., half of the bat species are at risk and one of the biggest threats they face is the household cat.

“A recent analysis of wild animal intake and health data from across Canada revealed that cat attacks are the greatest source of trauma for bats. In 2022, a B.C. study also found that cats were the most frequent cause of death for bats submitted to the provincial veterinary laboratory,” said the BC SPCA on their website.

“Cats are swift and agile hunters. They can see well at night when bats are most active and can hear the high frequency sounds used by echolocating bats. For guardians who live near forested areas, keeping cats indoors is especially critical. Research has shown the probability of a cat preying on native species increases closer to forest edges. Bats tend to target areas with higher concentrations of insects, which can include forest edges where insects seek shelter from the wind. This can bring them into contact with cats on the hunt.”

The BC Community Bat Program is also encouraging people to do what they can to help the flying mammals in the BC Interior.

The Bat Friendly Communities Program is looking for people in the North Okanagan to help with outreach and advocacy for the conservation of bats and their habitat as well.

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