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Peachland studies impact of artificial light on bats

Bat lighting in Peachland

Just in time for International Bat Week, Peachland is taking steps to ensure its bat colony continues to thrive.

Bat week starts Thursday, and Peachland is looking at how artificial lighting near the downtown visitor centre, also home to the bat colony, impacts the bat's flight, mating, and foraging patterns.

Boarded shut for 10 years, the attic of a former school's timber frames were blanketed with small Yuma myotis bats, forming a colony of approximately 2,000. Darlene Hartford says she had never seen anything like it.

"Everyone knew there were bats in that building, but I had no idea that it would look like that," said Hartford, president of the Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society in Peachland. "It was recommended that we develop an educational program around the colony, so we immediately got started."

The former school, built in 1908, has since been turned into the Peachland Visitor Centre, where about 4,000 visitors stop in each year to see one of the largest bat colonies in the province. A camera broadcasting a live feed of the maternity colony has been set up at the visitor centre from March to October. The community has also created a bat interpretive trail that leads to bat houses in eight locations, hosts bat chats with tourists and schools, and holds weekly bat surveys during the summer months where people sit in lawn chairs counting the bats as they feast on insects.

The BC Community Bat Program recently designated Peachland as the second bat-friendly community in the province.

"We take a lot of pride in that designation," said Hartford, noting the society is also working with the town to install bat-friendly lighting.

"There wasn't a lot of information about bats when the first camera was installed, so there was a lot of fear. We had to discredit a lot of myths that were going on about bats flying into your hair and just being a dangerous animal. Bats are typically shy animals and don't attack people unless they feel threatened."

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