A local bat conservation group is beginning its semi-annual count of bats in the Kootenays, made all the more important by the emergence of a long-feared threat.
The Kootenay Community Bat Project counts bats in their roosts between June 1 and 2, before pups are flying, to get a handle on the adult population, and again between July 11 and Aug. 5, once young have taken to the air, counting both adults and pups.
Co-ordinator Elodie Kuhnert says the counts are conducted all over BC, and they try to cover as many roosts as possible.
“Some have been counted for many years,” she says. “Those ones are the priorities to monitor. But anyone with a bat house or bats in their building and wants to be part of it can just do it.
“Those summer counts are our way to monitor our bat population and see if they come back after hibernation, hoping their numbers will stay the same year after year.”
She said bat numbers seem steady, although some colonies appear to have suffered from last year’s heat. However, she said it’s hard to know if their numbers were actually reduced or if they just moved to different roosts.
“At this point we haven’t seen any major decline,” she said.
However, recently, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome was found in bat droppings in the Grand Forks area. It poses a deadly threat to bats.
While Kuhnert says they are not aware of any bats in BC that have died from it, it heightens the need for the regular counts.
She said the spread of white-nose syndrome can be slowed, but not stopped. If you visit a place where bats roost, including caves or mines, you can help by cleaning your shoes, changing your clothes, and cleaning any materials you bring with alcohol.
However, bats themselves will spread the fungus by moving from roost to roost.
Bat counting workshops are scheduled in several communities this month. The full list can be found here.
You can also learn more about bat counting in a video they produced.