The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that White-Nose Syndrome had been detected on a dead bat near Seattle on March 31.
This is very worrisome for the health of bat populations in British Columbia. The BC Community Bat Program in collaboration with provincial government and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada is developing a rapid response to this emerging crisis.
“We knew this deadly fungus that kills bats was moving westward across North America” said Juliet Craig, coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program, “but we thought we had many years to prepare”.
Currently, there are no known treatments for White-Nose Syndrome that can be used to save bats in the wild. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations the resilience to rebound from the mortality that may be caused by the disease.
This is where the Okanagan Community Bat Program and the general public can help.
“Although White-Nose Syndrome affects bats in caves, it will be during springtime when bats return to building roosts that we have our best chance at detecting the presence of the disease, making the work of our community bat program more important than ever before,” said Craig.
Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Habitat Stewardship Program, the BC Community Bat Program conducts public outreach, responds to public reports of roosting bats in buildings, promotes the installation of bat houses, and coordinates a citizen-science bat monitoring program.
“We are asking the public to report dead bats to the toll-free phone number or email below and to provide information on bat roosts. Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing of White-Nose Syndrome and may provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in BC,” said Craig.
If you find a dead bat, be sure not to touch it with your bare hands. Collect it in a bag and label the bag with the date, location and your name, and then put the bag in the freezer. Contact the Okanagan Community Bat Program as soon as possible for shipping directions and further information.
The BC Community Bat Program also encourages residents to report bat roosting sites in building structures, such as attics, sheds and bat houses, to help identify where certain species are present; if you are needing to evict bats from a structure, you are encouraged to contact your local Community Bat Program representative who can provide information on proper procedures to follow.