Bats are a frequent patient here at AIWC – we average about 30 each year, and we currently have five over-wintering with us, awaiting their releases in the spring when they’d naturally come out of hibernation and insect populations are plentiful.
In eastern Canada, white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection, has been drastically reducing bat populations as the disease moves westerly across the country, from the maritimes and now into Ontario. The fungus lives in cold environments and affects bats where they hibernate. It is mainly spread from bat to bat, but humans can also contaminate caves if caving gear is not properly cleaned between locations.
There is currently no cure for white-nose syndrome, and it is estimated the fungus has killed 99% of little brown bats in Nova Scotia. However, some good news came out of PEI last week showing bat activity may be starting to rebound!
Meanwhile, in Banff, Parks Canada researchers found a cave in the National Park in December that showed evidence of bats using the area to hibernate. This marks the first time researchers have found evidence of bats hibernating in the National Parks area, and provides the opportunity to better study and understand Alberta’s bat populations, as well as proactively plan for and prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome throughout the province.
What can you do to help Alberta’s bats?
- install bat boxes on your property
- maintain their natural habitats (e.g., maintain trees, reduce outdoor lighting)
- do not disturb hibernating bats if you come across them
- if you’re a caver, make sure you thoroughly disinfect and decontaminate your gear between locations and excursions so you do not contribute to the spread of white-nose syndrome
- if you find a grounded or injured bat, call our Wildlife Hotline for help: 403-946-2361