Awarded to the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada to help landowners protect their bat colonies through a variety of actions, ranging from disease surveillance and ensuring safe bat boxes are in place to testing and applying a prophylaxis treatment that has been developed.

PROPONENT: Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCSC)

DESCRIPTION: Populations of many species in eastern North America have plummeted to a small fraction of their pre-2006 population numbers, the year white-nose syndrome (WNS) was discovered. WNS is an invasive fungal disease that has killed an unprecedented number of bats (>98.5% for some species) in North America (USFWS 2019). This fungus was first discovered in northwestern Washington in 2016, and in 2019 was found on the east side of the Cascade Mountains (Washington Fish and Wildlife 2019), now threatening to enter the Columbia River drainage, through which bats are thought to migrate from BC. Accounting for almost 20% of BC’s small mammal diversity, bats face unprecedented threats and without intervention, declines could drastically impact biodiversity.

Bats are the primary consumer of insects including moths, beetles, and caterpillars, some of which are pests on forests, gardens, and crops. This is especially important in the Kootenay Lake region where farms, and notably organic farms, benefit economically from natural bat pest-control services. Conservation of local Kootenay Lake populations of bats are important for realized benefits to landowners; as we transition into an era where the survival of each bat counts, our project aims to help landowners protect their bat colonies through a variety of actions, ranging from disease surveillance and ensuring safe bat boxes are in place to testing and applying a prophylaxis treatment that has been developed.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this project is to build a network of engaged landowners with bats on their land and work with them to actively protect their bats, and help collect vital data for WNS mitigation planning. At sites, WCSC team members work with landowners to install temperature, humidity, and occupancy monitoring devices in bat boxes to record environmental characteristics related to number of roosting bats, and collect other site-level data (e.g. bat box design, orientation, height, colour, etc.). At strategically selected sites, team members also quantify reproductive success and body condition of bats in bat boxes through bat capture, and examine-roost switching behaviour in the context of microclimate needs. Interested landowners are reached through outreach such as posters and display booths at local events, landowner site visits with concerted efforts to engage neighbours, and social media posts. Ultimately, this network of landowners will form a critical component of the plan to get prepared for the possible arrival of WNS and hopefully reduce its impact in the Kootenay Lake area.

PHOTOS: WCSC

This video provides an excellent overview of the project.