Bat Blog

Spring bat reports can help monitor spread of deadly disease

For Immediate Release –
Spring bat reports can help monitor spread of deadly disease
Date: March 6, 2018
Reporting dead bats may help save the lives of our BC bats. The BC Community Bat Program, in collaboration with the Province of BC, is asking the public to report any dead bats in an effort to determine the distribution of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is a fungal disease harmless to humans but responsible for the deaths of millions of insect-eating bats in North America. WNS was first detected in Washington State in March 2016.
To monitor the spread of this disease, Community Bat Program coordinators have been collecting reports of unusual winter bat activity across southern BC and ensuring that dead bats are sent to the Canadian Wildlife Health Centre lab for disease testing. Information gained from dead bats and reports of live bats can help determine the extent of the disease, and determine priorities for conservation efforts. Fortunately, no WNS has been reported in the province to-date.
Spring conditions now mean increased bat activity – and an increased chance of detecting the disease. As bats begin to leave hibernacula and return to their summering grounds, our chances of seeing live or dead bats increases, and the Community Bat Program is continuing to ask for assistance. “We are asking the public to report dead bats or any sightings of daytime bat activity to the Community Bat Project as soon as possible (1-855-922-2287 ext 24 or” says Mandy Kellner, coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program.
Never touch a bat with your bare hands as bats can carry rabies, a deadly disease. Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with a bat, immediately contact your physician and/or local public health authority or consult with your private veterinarian.
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. This is where the BC Community Bat Program and the general public can help. 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 the BC Community Bat Program, visit, email or call 1-855-922-2287 ext. 24.

Contact: Mandy Kellner, Provincial Coordinator, BC Community Bat Program

A biologist inspect hibernating bats for signs of WNS.
photo credit: C.Lausen, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada/ BatCaver Program

A little brown bat with visible symptoms of fungal growth typical of White-Nose Syndrome.
Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

Hibernating bats remain free from WNS.
Photo credit: C. Lausen, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada/ BatCaver Program


Bats: farmers’ green pest control

Do you enjoy local veggies and fruits? You might want to thank your farmer but also bats. Yes, bats!

SCBats is studying bat contributions to the agricultural sector in BC

Bats are voracious insect eaters and each night they can consume their own body weight in insects. Because of this, bats can keep agricultural pests at bay while providing valuable ecosystem services for agriculture 1. For instance, bats help the cotton and corn farmlands in the US saving billions of dollars only in pesticide use 1,2.

Merlin Tuttle

In the Lower Fraser River Valley, insect pests are threats to important agricultural crops including those in fruit farms, vineyards, and vegetable farms. The good news is that the Valley is home to 10 bat species that feed exclusively on insects 3. Also, a large portion of pest insects has been identified in bat guano. This means that bats could provide an important ecosystem service by eating and depleting pest populations in the Lower Fraser River Valley.

Bats can also diminish the harmful impact that insects have on crops by just being present. Researchers have shown that female moths suppress reproduction after hearing bats feeding close by which prevents the production of the larval pest that causes earworm infestation in corn 4.

Despite these important benefits, bats have a negative reputation that’s largely undeserved. Many people associate bats with rabies, but the risk of transmission from bats is exceedingly low. Only about 6% of bats are infected with rabies (CDC). Also, there is no evidence of the transmission of rabies from bats to domestic animals or livestock. For instance, one of the biggest colonies of bats in the US, with approximately 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats, is a food source of many carnivores and to date, no outbreaks of rabies have been reported. The same holds true for one of the biggest maternity colonies in BC located at Deas Island Regional Park.

Understanding the benefits that bats provide to agriculture and promoting the conservation of bat ecosystem services is more urgent than ever. Today, bats face the threat of a deadly disease called white-nose syndrome (WNS). This disease is caused by a fungus and is obliterating bat populations across North America, with mortality rates of up to 100%. Researchers anticipate that southwestern BC will be affected soon. White-nose syndrome may lead bat decline and increase agricultural pests. In US, the loss of 6 million bats due to WNS has resulted in more than 1300 metric tons of insects escaping bat predation every year (USDA).

Bats and insect pest control in the Lower Fraser River Valley

Mimigu at English Wikipedia

Farmers and SCBats researchers are working together to understand bats’ role in pest control and develop strategies to minimize the impact of the catastrophic WNS disease in the Lower Fraser River Valley. With the support of the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia and farmers from the area, SCBats is exploring the pest control services bats are providing to farms in the Valley.

In summer 2017, the SCBat team conducted acoustic surveys in a number of farms to find the bat species feeding in the area. Using microphones and bat detectors, the SCBats team recorded bat ultrasounds which are being used for species identification.

The team also captured bats and collected guano. How? After capturing the bats, the team let the bats poop in a bag and took the samples to the lab. The guano collected will be used to extract DNA and identify the pest species bats are feeding from. Their results will help us understand how bats contribute to agriculture and provide valuable information that could potentially reduce pesticides used by supporting bats as natural pest control in farms.

Video of bat feeding

video from the BBC

1. Kunz, T. H., Braun de Torrez, E., Bauer, D., Lobova, T. & Fleming, T. H. Ecosystem services provided by bats. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1223, 1–38 (2011).
2. Beard, J. D. et al. Suicide and pesticide use among pesticide applicators and their spouses in the agricultural health study. Environ. Health Perspect. 119, 1610–1615 (2011).
3. Nagorsen, D. W., Brigham, R. M. & Museum, R. B. C. Bats of British Columbia. (UBC Press, 1993).
4. Maine, J. J. & Boyles, J. G. Bats initiate vital agroecological interactions in corn. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 112, 12438–12443 (2015).

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unveils plan to fight white-nose syndrome in bats

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday released a national plan to enhance collaboration among the states, federal agencies and tribes trying to manage a rapidly spreading disease that has killed more than 1 million hibernating bats since it was discovered in New York in 2007.

Over the last five years, white-nose syndrome, which was named for the presence of a white fungus around the muzzles, ears and wings of affected bats, has spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces. Bat colony losses at the most closely monitored sites have reached 95% within three years of initial detection.

A recent study published in Science magazine showed that pest-control services provided by bats save the U.S. agricultural industry at least $3.7 billion a year.

The service considered about 17,000 comments received on the draft plan made available to the public in October.

The 17-page plan recommends decontamination protocols to reduce transmission of the fungus by humans, surveillance strategies and diagnostic procedures designed to ensure that white-nose syndrome testing results are accurate and comparable between laboratories.

“We’ve learned a lot in the past few years about the disease, but there is much more work to be done to contain it,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a prepared statement. “This national plan provides a road map for federal, state and tribal agencies and scientific researchers to follow and will facilitate sharing of resources and information to more efficiently address the threat.”

– Louis Sahagun

Nature Conservancy Canada and SFI Partner to Protect Southern BC Bats

9 May 2011
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has received a Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) conservation grant to support protection of bat populations in southern British Columbia. The grant enables research to document the locations and health of bat habitat, which will in turn assist conservationists in taking greater measures to protect this sensitive species.

The project will receive a total of $50,000 through the SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program over two years. In addition to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, partners include BC Bat, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and SFI-certified International Forest Products Ltd.

“Bats are key indicators of ecosystem health, and we know bats and their habitat are on the decline in British Columbia,” said Tim Ennis, Director of Land Stewardship in British Columbia for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “The Nature Conservancy of Canada is excited to participate in this important bat conservation project that aims to identify and protect bat habitat and keep it free from introduced disease.”

When bats are disturbed during hibernation they may abandon their sites, using important energy reserves they need to survive the winter. Human access to bat hibernation sites may also spread pathogens such as white nose syndrome, a fungus that is causing mass bat die-offs across North America.

“Because the SFI Standard includes specific conservation and research requirements, SFI program participants are always looking for new ways to conduct research to better promote biological diversity, protect wildlife habitat and manage special sites,” SFI President and CEO Kathy Abusow said. “This project uses a collaborative approach to achieve all of these objectives, and provide land managers with new ways to protect bat populations.”

Last year, SFI Inc. created the Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant program to build on the more than $1.2 billion SFI program participants have contributed since 1995 for research activities, including forestry research, science and technology. The Nature Conservancy of Canada project is the third SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant awarded for 2011, and brings the total for all of the SFI grants awarded to-date to almost $1 million. Through the involvement of partners, these forestry research projects will leverage additional resources, achieving a total investment of more than $3 million.

The SFI 2010-2014 Standard is based on 14 core principles that promote sustainable forest management, including measures to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk, and Forests with Exceptional Conservation Value, and encourages community involvement. The SFI program is the only forest certification standard in North America that requires participants to support and engage in research activities to improve forestry forest health, productivity and sustainable management of forest resources.

SFI Inc.

SFI Inc. is an independent non-profit charitable organization, and is solely responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving the internationally recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program. Across North America, more than 73 million hectares/180 million acres are certified to the SFI forest management standard, making it the largest single standard in the world. SFI chain-of-custody certification tells buyers the percentage of fibre from certified forests, certified sourcing and/or post-consumer recycled content. The SFI program’s unique fibre sourcing requirements promote responsible forest management on all suppliers’ lands. SFI Inc. is governed by a three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is Canada’s leading land conservation organization, working to protect valuable natural areas and the plants and animals they sustain. Since 1962, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners have helped to protect more than 800,000 hectares/2 million acres coast to coast. Through strong partnerships, the Nature Conservancy of Canada works to safeguard natural areas so that our children and grandchildren will have the chance to enjoy them.