Darlene Hartford was overwhelmed the first time she saw the size of the bat colony living in the attic of an old school in Peachland.
Boarded and shut for 10 years, the attic’s timber frames were blanketed with small Yuma myotis bats, forming a colony of around 2,000. Hartford had never seen anything like it.
“Everyone knew there were bats in that building, but I had no idea that it would look like that,” said Hartford, president of the Bat and Education Protection Society in Peachland.
“It was recommended that we develop an educational program around the colony, so we immediately got started.”
The former school, built-in 1908, has since been turned into the Peachland visitor center, where about 4,000 visitors stop each year to see one of the largest bat colonies in the province.
A camera broadcasting a live feed of the maternity colony has been set up at the visitor center from March to October. The community has also created a bat interpretive trail that leads to bat houses in eight locations, hosts bat chats with tourists and schools and holds weekly bat surveys during the summer months where people sit in lawn chairs counting the bats as they feast on insects.
Hartford is proud of the way the community has embraced bats and its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The BC Community Bat Program recently designated Peachland as the second bat-friendly community in the province.
“We take a lot of pride in that designation,” said Hartford, noting the society is also working with the town to install bat-friendly lighting.
“There wasn’t a lot of information about bats when the first camera was installed, so there was a lot of fear. We had to discredit a lot of myths that were going on about bats flying into your hair and just being a dangerous animal. Bats are typically shy animals and don’t attack people unless they feel threatened.”
Oct. 24 to 31 marks International Bat Week, which is held to celebrate the role of bats in nature. The public is also reminded to be on the lookout for dead bats as part of the winter WNS surveillance period. Anyone who finds a dead bat is asked to report it as soon as possible to the Community Bat Program at (855)-922-2287 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Find more information at: https://www.beepspeachland.com/