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Bats don't get much respect but now they're getting protection
The Okanagan Community Bat Program is a new initiative to support bat conservation in the Okanagan by providing information about bats and getting the public’s assistance with locating and monitoring their populations.
Residents can ask questions about health and safety concerns, get information on attracting bats and learn about options for dealing with bats in buildings.
The public can contact the Community Bat Program through a new web site and toll free phone number launched recently.
Of 16 species of bats in British Columbia, 14 species can be found in the Okanagan. Almost half of the species are considered at risk due to concerns about habitat changes affecting populations and limited locations for winter and summer roosting habitat.
The Okanagan Community Bat Program is asking for the public’s help in identifying structures where groups of bats roost. These are usually maternal colonies where females give birth to their pups.
Bats are protected under BC Wildlife so homeowners managing bats in their buildings may have questions that the Community Bat Program can help with.
Interested residents who know of a bat colony can help participate in bat counts. The monitoring information is very valuable since there is very little known about local bat species and their population numbers.
An additional concern is the potential arrival of white-nose syndrome, a devastating fungus that has already killed more than six million bats in eastern North America. Although the fungus has not yet reached B.C., it is predicted to arrive in the next decade.
“We’d love to hear from people who notice bats entering buildings on their property,” said Okanagan Community Bat Program coordinator Margaret Holm. “And for those who want to attract bats there are a variety of bat house and bat roost options.
"We can give homeowners suggestions about supporting their bat habitat, or if needed, figuring out the best method and time of year to exclude the bats without endangering the adults or young.”
Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Okanagan Community Bat Program can be reached by calling 1-855-9BC-BATS and by visiting the web site www.bcbcats.ca.