A map shows where White-nose syndrome has been detected. (Contributed graphic)

Fungus could ‘drastically’ affect B.C. bat populations: researchers

Volunteers sought to help monitor spread of white-nose syndrome

Researchers concerned with the impact of White-nose syndrome on bats south of the border are once again asking Semiahmoo Peninsula residents to help them monitor spread of the disease on the west coast.

READ MORE: Bat-count volunteers sought for White Rock area

The disease – confirmed in Washington State, just 150km south of the B.C.-U.S. border – has close to 100 per cent mortality for some species of bats, a news release issued Thursday states.

Presence of the fungus “is very worrisome for the health of bat populations in British Columbia.”

“This could be a critical year for bats in B.C. as White-nose syndrome is present across the border,” regional bat co-ordinator Danielle Dagenais states in a Feb. 28 email to Peace Arch News.

“White Rock is just over the border and could… see bats flying north from Washington. WNS could drastically affect bat populations in the White Rock area.”

Dagenais said it is “very important” that people not disregard the sight of a dead bat from now until May 31, “as their collection is crucial for tracking and monitoring the fungus and bat populations.”

The typical first sign of the disease is bats flying during the winter – a time they are usually hibernating.

Another sign is the appearance of dead bats outdoors as they succumb to the effects of White-nose syndrome.

Residents who spot a dead bat or see bats flying in the area are asked to report the sightings as soon as possible to the B.C. Community Bat Program (CBP) at 1-855-922-2287 or vancouver@bcbats.ca

For dead bats, researchers ask that residents pick them up with gloves, wrap the carcass in paper towel, place it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it to preserve it until it can be shipped for testing.

The release notes that while White-nose syndrome poses no threat to humans, anyone who has direct contact with a bat, or whose pet comes into contact with one, should seek more information about the risk of rabies.

Detecting WNS in B.C. “will require many eyes on the ground,” CBP official Mandy Kellner states in the release.

The B.C. Community Bat program is funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the provincial government and the Habitat Stewardship Program.

For more information, visit bcbats.ca, email vancouver@bcbats.c or call 1-855-922-2287, ext. 11.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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Yuma myotis is one of the species people may encounter. (J. Burgar photo)

A hibernating little brown bat with signs of White-nose syndrome. (Alan Hicks photo)

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