The annual bat count in BC seeking 'citizen-scientists'

Bats counting on you

The BC Annual Bat Count is set to get underway in June and residents from Osoyoos to Vernon are being asked to help out in the Okanagan as “citizen-scientists”.

With spring in the air and with warmer nighttime temperatures the region’s bats are now returning to summer roost sites.

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.

Volunteers are needed for bat counts at Fintry, Okanagan Lake south, and Sun Oka Provincial Parks, as well as at the RDCO regional parks. Bat counts are also occurring in Peachland, Kaleden, and Vernon areas.

The count data helps biologists understand bat distribution and monitor for impacts of the devastating bat disease called white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome is an introduced fungal disease, fatal for bats but not for other animals or humans.

Results from the Bat Count may help prioritize areas in BC for research into treatment options and recovery actions.

“The counts are a wonderful way for people to get outside, learn about bats, and be involved in collecting important scientific information,” says Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, 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. A guano sample can also be sent in to identify the species of bat at the roost site.

One of the more familiar species in buildings and bat boxes is the Little Brown Myotis. Like all BC bats, the Little Brown Myotis is an essential part of the regional ecology, consuming many insect pests each night.

But because of white-nose syndrome, the Little Brown Myotis is endangered in Canada. The fungus responsible has recently been detected in BC for the first time, sounding the alarm bell for BC’s bats.

Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, with support of the BC Conservation Foundation and the Province of BC, the BC Community Bat Program provides information for people dealing with bat issues on their property or who have questions about how to attract bats.

The program partners with many organizations such as the Osoyoos Desert Centre, Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society, Regional District of the Central Okanagan, Allan Brooks Nature Centre, BC Parks, and many more.

To volunteer, find out more about bat counts or white-nose syndrome, report a dead bat, or to get advice on managing bats in buildings, visit bcbats.ca, email [email protected], or call 1-855-9BC-BATS, ext.13 (Okanagan).

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