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A plan for the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)

Author(s): Loeb, S.C., T.J. Rodhouse, L.E. Ellison, C.L. Lausen, J.D. Reichard, K.M. Irvine, T.E. Ingersoll, J.T.H. Coleman, W.E. Thogmartin, J.R. Sauer, C.M. Francis, M.L. Bayless, T.R. Stanley, and D.H. Johnson
Year: 2015

A Fork in the Road, Future Development in Ontario's Far North

Author(s): Cheryl Chetkiewicz and Matt Carlson
Journal: Wildlife Conservation Society Canada Collaborative Report
Year: 2013

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Latest Feature

Bat White-Nose Syndrome Found in the West

On March 31, the United States Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service announced that White Nose Syndrome (WNS) had been confirmed in a little brown bat in Washington State – the first instance of the deadly disease in western North America.

Biologists in western Canada and US have been working diligently since the first mass mortalities were discovered in the east in 2007 to prevent or at minimum slow the spread of this disease into western North America, in hopes that this would provide time for important habitats to be found and disease cures to be discovered. WNS spread has slowed in recent years and there was uncertainty whether it would cross the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains. However, the March findings now suggests that all bats in Canada and US are likely to be exposed to this fungus. With double the number of bat species in the west, compared to eastern North America, only time will tell how significant an impact this disease will have on western biodiversity. 

WCS Canada is hard at work preparing western Canada for the arrival of this disease that has already decimated bat populations in the east. Here are five easy things you can do to help our bat populations in the wake of this new discovery.

Five ways to help bats in Canada

1.    Encourage your community to become bat-friendly
Bats are long-lived mammals that generally have only a single offspring per year, so massive population die-backs threaten the species. Females return to the same place year after year to raise a pup. By taking actions in your community, you can make a difference to help ensure that bats have what they need to fight this disease and recover after it has taken its toll.  This also means reducing use of pesticides and conserving and enhancing their habitats.  Bats have very specific needs for raising young.  Maintaining any habitat currently used by bats will be critical, so that bats do not burn precious time and fat in the spring searching for a new place to roost and raise a pup.  If your community wants to increase the number of potential roosts for bats to use, consider erecting bat houses, or even better, bat ‘condos’ that are more likely to meet the needs of many reproductive females. For details on what you can do in your community to help bats, visit www.bcbats.ca or www.albertabats.ca.

2.    Decontaminate
WNS is commonly spread through bat-to-bat contact, but cavers and tourists visiting infected regions can also carry the fungus on their clothes and caving gear. If you have been to any caves in Canada, US, Asia or Europe, you may be carrying spores for the disease. Gear can be decontaminated by soaking it in 60°C water for twenty minutes. For more information on decontamination, consult the latest protocols on the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative website (http://www.cwhc-rcsf.ca/docs/WNS_Decontamination_Protocol-Jun2015.pdf).

3.    Volunteer
By working with biologists, cavers who are careful to follow these decontamination protocols can serve vital roles for bat conservation in the west. BatCaver is a partnership between cavers and researchers in western Canada that aims to gain more insight into the use of western caves and mines by bats, particularly in the winter time. BatCaver volunteers place remote bat detectors and climate loggers in caves and mines and take fungal samples: www.batcaver.org.

4.    Spread the word
WNS is an issue facing bats across North America. Sign up for our newsletter, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to get the most up-to-date information on bat research in western Canada – and then share the news with your friends! Inspire others to care about bats and the work they do to make the world healthier.
5.    Donate
WCS Canada’s Dr. Cori Lausen and her team of coordinators and volunteers are hard at work addressing this continuing threat to Canada’s bats. Your donation will help provide the tools they need – like acoustic dataloggers, mistnets and simple things like batteries and flashlights – to make their work possible: http://wcscanada.org/Support-Us/Donate.aspx

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Latest News

New Bat Habitat Discovered in Western Alberta

BatCaver, an ongoing WCS Canada program, has recently discovered two new bat hibernacula - places where bats hibernate during winter months - in the Alberta foothills. Bats hibernate underground for a large portion of each year, and these newly discovered locations help shed light on the mystery of where many species of bats go each winter. To address these critical knowledge gaps, the BatCaver program has deployed over 50 roostloggers - equipment used to record bat ultrasound - underground across western Canada. WCS Canada research into bats in western Canada aims to improve our understanding about the behaviour and ecology of 14 Canadian bat species prepare for the arrival of a deadly fungal disease, White Nose Syndrome.

Habitat Restoration and Protecting Caribou Populations
Habitat loss is – by far – the most common reason species become at risk of extinction. There are many ways to combat this threat, including restoring habitat that has been removed or otherwise damaged. A discussion paper on this topic by WCS Canada’s President, Justina Ray, was commissioned by Environment Canada as federal recovery efforts grapple with the challenge of habitat restoration. A key conclusion of the paper is that effective restoration for boreal caribou will require site-based restoration activities to be linked with range-scale land use planning and monitoring. Restoring ecosystems is typically a highly expensive process that requires substantially more effort than prevention of ecological damage in the first place.
Citizen Science for Bats
Although we currently know surprisingly little about bats in winter in western Canada, WCS Canada is making giant leaps filling critical knowledge gaps through our on the ground research and citizen science programs. 

Through these collaborations, we now have more than 50 bat detectors deployed in hard-to-reach underground locations across western Canada. As we learn where our bats hibernate, and what species use what types of caves or mines, we will be better poised to help fight the deadly White Nose Syndrome that is expected to spread into the west within the next decade or so.