The little brown myotis, better known as the little brown bat is one of the most common species in British Columbia. (BC Community Bat Project/Facebook)

The BC Community Bat Program’s annual bat count set to kick off in June

B.C. bats have nothing to do with COVID-19, but they are threatened by white-nose syndrome

As British Columbia struggles to contain COVID-19, the province’s bat population is at risk of a different disease.

The BC Community Bat Program is calling on volunteers to help with its annual bat count, to better understand bat colony distribution and size as white-nose syndrome threatens bats in the province.

White-nose syndrome is an introduced fungal disease that can kill bats but not other animals or humans.

“It does have a high mortality rate in a lot of cases, sometimes 80 to 100 per cent mortality rate,” said Ashleigh Ballevona, project coordinator at the Skeena Bat Project.

“So even if you had a small colony, if white-nose were to be in that colony with a high mortality rate you’re still not looking at a good situation.”

The disease is currently spreading in the bat populations of Washington State, identified less than 200 kilometres from the B.C. border. White-nose syndrome has killed around six-million bats in North America.

It infects bats while they are hibernating in large groups, allowing white-nose syndrome to spread easily between them. The fungus develops on their nose and wing membranes.

“What happens is they are hibernating, they are now woken up because this fungus is making them itchy,” said Ballevona.

“They have no food if they leave their hibernation site, there’s no insects for them to eat, there’s no water for them to drink so they end up using up the fat stores and then they have nothing left come spring or even before that, and they’ll die.”

According to Ballevona, nine of B.C.’s 15 bat species live in the Skeena region, and nearly half of the province’s bat species are classified as at risk. The little brown myotis, better known as the little brown bat is one of the more common species in B.C., but it is endangered Canada-wide.

There is relatively little known about bat populations in the province. “They are small, they are active at night so there just hasn’t been a lot of work done with bats and their population numbers,” said Ballevona.

READ MORE: Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

The BC Community Bat Program’s annual bat count runs from June 1, to June 21, and aims to establish baseline population data, so if white-nose syndrome reaches the province researchers will be able to monitor the disease’s effects.

Last year, the annual bat count collected data on 337 sites province-wide. Volunteers wait outside a human-made roost, like a building or bat house. Female bats return to the same site each year to give birth. The June count takes place before the pups can fly, giving the program an idea of how many mature female bats there are.

A second tally from July 11 to Aug. 5 counts pups when they leave the roost.

The Skeena bat project said the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a negative light on bats, based on the false association that B.C. bats carry or spread COVID-19.

“In B.C. our bats do not have or spread the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is not found in North American bat species at present.”

To find out more about bats, or learn how to get involved visit www.bcbats.ca.


@BenBogstie
ben.bogstie@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

Martin Holzbauer, independent, Nicole Halbauer, BC NDP, and Ellis Ross, BC Liberal Party, are the candidates for the Skeena riding in the upcoming provincial election. (Terrace Standard/BC NDP)
Skeena candidates talk northwest education

Online learning access and early childhood education were common themes

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

David Block, director of development services for the City of Terrace, explains City staff’s new approach to bylaw and official community plan amendments associated with the proposed inland port development. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
City of Terrace changes approach to inland port development process

Keith Estates Neighbourhood Concept Plan to be dealt with separately

Martin Holzbauer, independent candidate for the Skeena riding in the Oct. 24 provincial election, is seen here outside the Terrace Standard office on Oct. 1. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
Learn more about Skeena’s independent candidate

Martin Holzbauer says he wants to bring a unique point of view to the race

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. sees record-breaking daily COVID infections with 499 new cases over weekend

Two people, both in the Lower Mainland, died due to the virus over the weekend

(Pixabay)
Wave of racist emails ‘unleashed’ on B.C. researchers investigating racism in health care

The team has received close to 600 calls and emails since the investigation started in July

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read