First detection of deadly bat disease on the west coast of North America

White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that can be fatal to bats, has now been detected on the west coast.

  • Apr. 13, 2016 5:00 p.m.

On March 31, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that White-Nose Syndrome had been detected on a dead bat near Seattle, WA. This is very worrisome for the health of bat populations in British Columbia. The BC Community Bat Program in collaboration with BC government and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada is developing a rapid response to this emerging crisis.

“We knew this deadly fungus that kills bats was moving westward across North America,” says Juliet Craig, coordinator of the Kootenay Community Bat Project (KCBP) and BC Community Bat Program, “but we thought we had many years to prepare.”

Currently there are no known treatments for White Nose Syndrome that can be used to save bats in the wild. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations the resilience to rebound from the mortality that may be caused by the disease. This is where the KCBP and the general public can help.

“Although White-Nose Syndrome affects bats in caves, it will be during springtime when bats return to building roosts that we have our best chance at detecting the presence of the disease, making the work of our community bat program more important than ever before,” continued Craig.

Funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, and the Habitat Stewardship Program, the KCBP conducts public outreach activities, responds to public reports of roosting bats in buildings, promotes the installation of bat houses, and coordinates a citizen-science bat monitoring program.

“We are asking the public to report dead bats and to also provide information on bat roosts. Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing of White-Nose Syndrome and may provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in BC,” says Craig. “We are trying to determine whether or not this disease has reached BC and we need your help.”

Craig asks area residents to do the following:

 

1. Keep your eyes out for freshly dead bat carcasses. If you find a dead bat, don’t touch it with your bare hands. Put it in a plastic bag and label it with your name, the date, and the location you found it. Then email/call us immediately at 1-855-922-2287 ext. 14 or juliet@kootenaybats.com (West Kootenay) or leighanne@kootenaybats.com (East Kootenay). We will arrange to pick it up or get it shipped to a health lab immediately.

 

2. Document the date you first see bats return to a roost on your property. This information will help us know when/how to monitor for WNS next spring.

 

3. If you have a bat colony on your property, lay down cardboard or plastic (not black) where the droppings usually accumulate to collect a fresh guano sample. Once you have fresh guano from this year (about 1 tsp), put it in an envelope labelled with your name, date, address and contact information. Contact us so we can arrange mailing it to the lab.

 

4. Participate in the Annual Bat Count. It is extremely important to get baseline data on our bat populations this summer. By monitoring your bat colony, you can help us collect this valuable information. For details, see: http://www.bcbats.ca/index.php/get-involved/participate-in-the-bc-bat-count

The KCBP also encourages residents to report bat roosting sites in building structures, such as attics, sheds and bat houses, to help identify where certain species are present; if you are needing to evict bats from a structure, you are encouraged to contact the KCBP who can provide information on proper procedures to follow.

To contact the KCBP, email juliet@kootenaybats.com or call 1-855-922-2287 ext. 14.

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