As Halloween approaches, images of scary, blood-sucking bats become common place. This year, counter these myths and support bats by participating in International Bat Week.
Bat Week, from Oct. 24 to 31, is an opportunity to celebrate these amazing animals and their benefits, from eating insect pests to pollinating the agave plant used to make tequila. Take a moment to learn about the many ways bats contribute to our lives, and what you can do locally for bats, at www.batweek.org or through the BC Community Bat Program at www.bcbats.ca. Host a bat party, learn about bats by visiting the Peachland Visitor Centre bat colony, take a walk along the Peachland bat house interpretive trail, visit your local nature centre, or clean-up a wetland; there are many ways to participate.
“Bats help us – but now they need our help” says Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, Okanagan co-ordinator for the BC Community Bat Program. “The conservation of bats in B.C. has always been important since over half the species in this province are considered at risk. With the discovery of White-nose Syndrome in Washington State, bat conservation is more important than ever.”
White-nose Syndrome is a disease caused by an introduced fungus, first detected in North America in a cave in New York in 2006. Since it was discovered, it has spread to 33 states and 7 provinces in North America, decimating bat populations along the way. “Luckily, WNS is not yet in B.C.,” said Rodriguez de la Vega, “But we are preparing for its arrival by raising awareness about bats, working with landowners who have bats in buildings, enhancing bat habitat, and monitoring populations.”
Monitoring for WNS will continue this winter, with Community Bat Programs requesting reports of dead bats or sightings of winter bat activity starting November 1. You can report sightings at www.bcbats.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1-855-922-2287 ext.13.
In partnership with the BC Ministry of Environment, and funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Habitat Stewardship Program, and the South Okanagan Conservation Fund, the BC Community Bat Program – Okanagan Region provides information about bats in buildings, conducts site visits to advise landowners on managing bats in buildings, coordinates the annual bat count, and offers educational programs on bats.