As the Annual BC Bat Count nears, the BC Community Bat Program is seeking help from volunteers to count bats at local roost sites.
In 2018, the bat count collected baseline data on bat populations at 214 sites across B.C. The program is hoping to find more sites this year.
The count data helps bat biologists understand bat distribution and normal variation in colony sizes before White Nose Syndrome affects bats in the province.
White Nose Syndrome is a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America and has made its way to the west coast. It was confirmed in Washington State, 150 kilometres south of the B.C. and U.S. border.
The disease has near 100 percent mortality for some species of bats exposed to the fungus, including the Little Brown Myotis bat which can be found across Canada.
The Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) hosts a bat count training session May 26 from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Elk/Beaver Lake Park. This is a chance for people to learn about counting protocol and be matched with team leaders for specific roost sites.
People can register for the event by e-mailing email@example.com.
“The counts are a wonderful way for people to get involved in collecting important scientific information, as well as learn about bat behaviour,” said Estraven Lupino-Smith, coordinator of the HAT Bat Stewardship Program.
During the bat count, volunteers wait outside a known roost site — such as a bat-house, barn, bridge or attic — and count bats as they fly out at twilight. They record the final number along with basic information on weather conditions.
Ideally, one to two counts are done between June 1 and June 21 before pups are born, and one to two more are conducted between July 11 and Aug. 5 when pups are flying.
“We know relatively little about bats in B.C., including basic information on population numbers,” said Paige Erickson-McGee, stewardship coordinator at HAT. “This information is more valuable than ever, particularly if it is collected annually.”
HAT will try to match individuals with a roost site nearby if they want to get involved but don’t have one on their property.
The BC Community Bat Program is funded by the HAT foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the Habitat Stewardship Program and LUSH cosmetics. It also receives support from the BC Conservation Foundation and the Province of B.C.
The program provides information for people dealing with bat issues on their property or who have questions about how to attract bats.
To find out more about bat counts or White Nose Syndrome, to report a dead bat or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, go to hat.bc.ca/bats or call 250-995-2428.