White-nose syndrome is soon expected to reach the Okanagan (Photo courtesy of Community Bat Programs of BC)

White-nose syndrome is soon expected to reach the Okanagan (Photo courtesy of Community Bat Programs of BC)

Okanagan residents urged to report unusual bat sights to help stop disease

White-nose syndrome has killed 6.7 million bats so far across North America

It’s one issue that you shouldn’t just bat an eye at.

The BC Community Bat Program is asking Okanagan residents to do their part to help prevent the spread of White-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats.

According to the program’s website, WNS is a fungal disease that carries an almost 100 per cent mortality rate in bats and has been spreading westward across North America since 2006. The disease is anticipated to reach B.C. and impact many of the province’s 16 bat species within the next ten years.

READ MORE: Peachland bats roosting and healthy

Okanagan program coordinator Paula Rodriguez de la Vega said residents can report sightings of unusual bat activity to help combat the spread of the disease.

“We are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to the BC Community Bat Program toll-free phone number at 1-855-922-2287, website, or email,” said Vega.

“Carcasses will be submitted for testing for white-nose syndrome and would provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in BC. Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.”

If Okanagan residents come across a sleeping bat, Vega said they should leave the creature alone, snap a photo and report the encounter to officials in the bat program.

While reports help, Vega admits tracking bats who might have WNS is hard.

“Detection of WNS in BC is challenging because our bats hibernate in small groups across the province” said Vega.

WNS has already been confirmed in bats just 150 km south of the BC-US border.

Since 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 6.7 million bats have died from the disease.

The program is being funded by multiple conservation organizations and aims to monitor and improve bat roosting sites across the province.


@connortrembley
connor.trembley@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.