A hibernating little brown bat showing visible signs of white nose syndrome.

Disease killing bats

Public asked to keep an eye out for bats infected by white nose syndrome

A disease could put Okanagan bats at risk.

White nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America, was confirmed in Washington State in 2016 and there are concerns it could spread into B.C. There is almost 100 per cent mortality for some species.

“We knew this deadly fungus was moving westward across North America, but we thought we had many years to prepare,” said says Mandy Kellner, B.C. Community Bat Program, co-ordinator.

“We are gearing up to look for it in B.C this winter.”

The typical first sign of this disease is bats flying during the winter, an unusual sighting at a time of year when bats are hibernating. 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,” said Kellner.

“Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing for white nose syndrome and would provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in B.C.”

If you find a dead bat, report it to 1-855-922-2287 ext. 13 or okanaganbats@gmail.com as soon as possible for further information. Never touch a dead bat with your bare hands. Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with the bat you will need further information regarding the risk of rabies to you and your pet.

“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,” said Kellner.

“This is where the Okanagan Community Bat Program and the general public can help.”

For more information, go to www.bcbats.ca