The provincial government and concerned groups are asking the public to be on the lookout for dead or sick bats that may have contracted a fungal disease called white nose syndrome.
The disease has not been detected in British Columbia; however, it was detected in Washington State in 2016 and is expected to be found in B.C. this year.
“The southern part of the province is where we would expected to see it first due to the proximity to Washington state, but because we are not sure how the disease is spreading, we want everyone across the province to be on the lookout,” said Ashleigh Ballevona, Skeena coordinator for the Community Bat Programs of B.C.
“Any reports from the public about winter bat activity or dead bats will help our understanding of the disease and help us to develop options to reduce its impact on bats,” she added.
The white nose syndrome, which refers to a white fungus that grows on the muzzles or bodies of bats, has killed over six million bats since arriving in the eastern United States in 2006 and reaching Canada in 2010. The disease does not infect humans.
According to the provincial government, bats are important to both the environment and economy. Bats are major predators of invertebrates, helping to control forest, agriculture and urban pests. Endangered little brown bats can eat 600 mosquitoes per hour. Researchers estimate that bats provide billions of dollars in pest control services annually in North America.
The public is being asked to report bats that are flying or found dead, during winter and early spring, to the B.C. Community Bat Program at 1-855-922-2287 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do not attempt to capture sick or injured bats and do not touch a dead bat with your bare hands due to a risk of rabies. If you do find a dead bat, collect it in a plastic bag using leather gloves and label the bag with the date, location, your name and contact information, then put the bag in the freezer and contact the B.C. Community Bat Program.