Never touch a dead bat with your bare hands. (Photo submitted)

Never touch a dead bat with your bare hands. (Photo submitted)

Researchers ask residents to report bat sightings and dead bats

The province’s bats – from Princeton through to Grand Forks – are threatened by disease

The province’s bats – from Princeton through to Grand Forks – are threatened by disease and researchers are asking the public for help.

White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America, is spreading to the West Coast. The disease has been confirmed in bats just 100 kilometres south of the USA/B.C. border.

“The fungus attacks bats while they are hibernating and, much like mold on bread, spreads over a bats wings and face. This gives the appearance of a white nose,” says Ella Braden, Okanagan coordinator with the B.C. Community Bat Program. “Bats often wake up from their hibernation to clean the fungus off their skin.”

Once awake, bats come out in search of water and insects to eat, if any are active. Unfortunately, the fungus also makes bats weak, and they often perish.

Detection of WNS in B.C. is challenging because bats in B.C. hibernate alone or in small groups across the province.

“To monitor the spread of the disease, we need more eyes on the ground. Outdoor enthusiasts and home-owners with roosts on their property may be the first to find evidence of trouble.” Braden said.

“We are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to the B.C. Community Bat Program,” Braden said.

As a result of ongoing research, biologists are finding that healthy bats are also somewhat active in winter, and that a few bats even choose to hibernate in woodpiles or under house trim. These sleeping bats should be left alone — keep your distance, snap a photo and report it to the B.C. Community Bat Program. If you must move a bat, visit www.bcbats.ca for advice and never touch a bat with your bare hands.

If you see a dead bat or any sightings of winter bat activity, please report it to the B.C. Community Bat Program online at bcbats.ca, via email at Okanagan@bcbats.ca or by calling 1-855-922-2287 ext. 13.

Bat carcasses will be tested for WNS.

Residents are reminded to never touch a dead bat with your bare hands.