Urban homes the trick to bat salvation: B.C. scientist 0
Bat houses are the new way to protect the nocturnal species' potential extinction by giving them a place to hibernate during the winter as a disease with a 95% fatality rate sweeps across the eastern coast, killing bat colonies, Vancouver, B.C. on Monday October 28, 2013. A new Vancouver-based group now aims to teach others how to build their very own backyard bat houses. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
A new, possibly European-originated fungus is killing off entire bat colonies on the east coast, according to a local scientist, and it’s almost a certainty B.C.’s own nocturnal fliers are next.
In just six years, the infection spread from one cave to five Canadian provinces and 24 U.S. states, said Cori Lausen, the bat expert at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.
Some of B.C.’s most common insect-crunchers are now at risk, making Lausen’s job of adding to the province’s nearly non-existent research on bat habitats and hibernation grounds that much more important.
Recently, she made a groundbreaking discovery of a Yuma Myotis bat colony — a cousin of the common little brown — hibernating within an apartment in Creston, B.C.
The unprecedented finding was important because the fungus that’s been killing colonies has affected bats that hibernate in near-freezing temperatures, she said, usually in rural areas.
Those weakened bats, who move to keep warm to fight the fungus, typically die of dehydration and exhaustion from using up stored fats.
Her bat hibernation find in B.C. could be the trick to salvation.
If fungus-foiling warm urban environments are suitable for bat hibernation in the West, she said, there’s now a new reason for urbanites to construct bat houses in the city — traditionally used to curb mosquito populations in the summer — as a winter home for the animals.
And while it might be a little too late to nail together one of the do-it-yourself wooden houses for Halloween Thursday, bat hibernation season is upon us and the homes could mean salvation for the critters.
“Nobody has looked into this and it’s certainly an experiment that needs to be done,” Lausen said.
“The idea is to try and present them with enough good habitat options that we’ll allow our bat populations to grow back.”
Erin Rutherford, project manager of the South Coast Bat Action Team, said on Tuesday she’s also aware of the increasingly important role bat houses play and plans to host workshops beginning in 2014 to teach Lower Mainlanders how to build them.
For now, instructions can be found here.