BC bats may be threatened by disease, and researchers are asking for the public's help in monitoring for the disease. White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America, has moved to the west coast. Confirmed in Washington State in both 2016 and 2017, the presence of the fungus is very worrisome for the health of bat populations in British Columbia, with near 100% mortality for some species of bats exposed to the fungus. Although devastating for bats, WNS does not affect humans.
The BC Community Bat Program in collaboration with the BC Government is requesting the public’s help in monitoring the spread of this disease. “We knew this deadly fungus was moving westward across North America,” says Mandy Kellner, Coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program, “but we thought we had many years to prepare.” Instead, the disease has suddenly appeared in the west, spurring BC researchers into action. Because so little is known about where BC bats hibernate, researchers want to hear from anyone who sees a bat flying during winter, which can be an early sign of the disease. Another sign of the presence of WNS is the appearance of dead bats as they succumb to the effects of WNS.
“We are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to the Community Bat Program's toll-free phone number, website, or email. Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing for White Nose Syndrome and would provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in BC,” says Kellner. Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.
Currently, there are no treatments for White Nose Syndrome. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations with the resilience to rebound.
Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Province of BC, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the BC Community Bat Program works with the government and others on public outreach activities, public reports of roosting bats in buildings, and our citizen-science bat monitoring program.
To contact Mandy Kellner, Provincial Coordinator the BC Community Bat Program:
Call 250-837-1376 or 1-855-922-2287 ext. 24
For more information, visit www.bcbats.ca