WCS Canada

Wildlife

Latest Publications

Email from:
 
Email to:
 
Message:


The person you email to will see the details you enter in the Form field and will be given you IP address for auditing purposes

Bats

KEEPING BATS FLYING

Bats are our only flying mammal and have fascinating abilities such as echolocation that make them highly effective insect predators. These interesting creatures have more in common with grizzly bears than mice – they can live up to 40 years old and bear only one young each year. But bats are in trouble. 

In 2006, a parasitic white fungus appeared on bats in a cave in New York State. It has since spread to over 20 states and five Canadian provinces, from Ontario east to Nova Scotia. The fungal disease, called White Nose Syndrome (WNS), spreads in cool, humid conditions and grows on bats while they hibernate in caves. The irritation caused by the fungus causes bats to come out of hibernation, groom, and fly more than they naturally would in the winter, expending the valuable energy that they need to survive until spring. WNS has caused massive die-offs, and the resulting loss of millions of bats is likely to drastically affect the ecosystems. 

In fact, this is both an ecological and economic crisis: Bats provide millions of dollars of insect control services to agriculture and forestry and may also help control the spread of insect-borne diseases. That’s because bats can eat their weight in insects every night. 

WNS has spread rapidly across eastern North America, leaving devastation in its wake. Researchers feel it is almost inevitable that the fungus will spread west. In fact, in 2016, infected bats were discovered in Washington State. 

WCS Canada has been leading efforts to prepare for the arrival of WNS in Western Canada by quickly developing a better understanding of western bat ecology and strategizing around ways to help bats survive and eventually recover from this deadly disease. 

WCS CANADA RACES TO SAVE BATS 

Led by bat expert Dr. Cori Lausen, our team has been:

  •  Identifying and describing where bats overwinter -- important for understanding potential impacts of white nose syndrome, and protecting significant roosts such as old mines and caves. 
  • Conducting field research to understand the unique winter ecology, physiology and behaviour of western bat species – critical information for determining the species-specific risk that white nose syndrome poses.
  • Engaging cavers in monitoring and surveillance activities in B.C. and Alberta to help locate bat hibernation sites (see BatCaver.org) 
  • Developing a better understanding of species diversity, behaviour and regional distribution of western bats through ongoing field research.
  • Training other biologists and wildlife and resource managers in acoustic monitoring and other bat inventory techniques and playing a key role in the development of the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) 
  • Promoting research and management guidance on wind energy to reduce impacts on bats 
  • Mentoring community bat outreach programs in B.C. (bcbats.org) and Alberta (albertabats.org), including the Kootenay Community Bat program 
  • Advising government agencies (e.g., BC Ministry of Environment, Alberta Environment and Parks, Parks Canada), and conservation organizations (e.g., Nature Conservancy Canada) on bat conservation and management actions. 
  • Guiding bat conservation, research and management action through leadership and engagement in working groups (e.g., North American Bat Conservation Alliance, Interagency White Nose Syndrome Committee, Alberta Bat Action Team, and BC Bat Action Team). 
  • Ground breaking research on bat metabolism characteristics that can be used by a team of disease modellers to predict the impact of white nose syndrome and climate change on western bat species. 
  • Working with researchers at Thompson Rivers University and McMaster University to develop a probiotic treatment that can help give bats protection from white nose syndrome. 

LOOKING AHEAD

Our research is based on the understanding that you can’t protect what you don’t understand. Already, we have found evidence of significant differences between eastern and western bat behaviour that may have a direct impact on how WNS spreads in the west. Our field research has found that western bats do not overwinter in large colonies like bats in the east. That will affect both the spread of the disease and possible treatments. 

Western bats are also more diverse than their eastern cousins. There are at least 16 species of bats in B.C., more than in any other province. How WNS will affect these different species is something we will need to monitor through our direct and collaborative efforts. 

By researching everything from the body fat content of different species to hibernation habits, we are working to identify species or populations that may be more likely to survive the disease and that can form the basis for an eventual recovery. It’s why we have spent hundreds of hours crawling through caves, staying up all night netting bats, and working to change public perceptions of our fascinating flying friends.

Key Staff

Cori Lausen
Associate Conservation Scientist
Jason Rae
Bat Program Manager
All Bats Staff >>

Contact

WCS Canada
344 Bloor Street West, Suite 204 Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3A7
(416) 850-9038