Many of us are in the dark about bats and their survival depends on our enlightenment. Because bats are active at night it’s hard to get a feel for how many of them are out there. The Whistler Biodiversity Project has so far documented eight species of bats in Whistler, but we don’t know a lot about how many individuals there are or where they hang out during the day or hibernate over winter.
What we do know is that bats are incredibly useful to humans. Bats in Whistler (and Canada) are insectivores (insect eaters) and consume pests of forests, crops, and humans saving billions of dollars on control. Consider that a Little Brown Bat in Whistler can eat as many as 600 mosquitoes per hour. How do bats catch so many insects? Bats can see as well as humans can, but they have evolved a method of using sound that enables them to navigate and find food in the dark called echolocation. Bats produce echolocation by emitting high frequency sound pulses through their mouth or nose and listening to the echo. This sophisticated hunting technique inspired humans to develop sonar, radar, and ultrasound. To experience echolocation yourself, the Whistler Library has two new ‘Bat Packs’ available to borrow, complete with an echolocation bat detector.
Bats documented in Whistler include: Myotis californicus California Myotis Myotis evotis Long-Eared Bat Myotis lucifugus Little Brown Myotis Myotis Volans Long-Legged Myotis Myotis yumanensis Yuma Myotis Eptesicus fuscus Big Brown Bat Lasionycteris noctivagans Silver-haired Bat Lasiurus cinereus Hoary Bat
Surprisingly, bats are more closely related to primates and humans than they are to mice or rats. Unlike mice, bats are long-lived (20-30 years in the wild), do not chew (don’t need to worry about bats damaging your home), bats roost instead of nest (they don’t carry anything into where they rest or sleep), and bats won’t force their way in (will not use a roost if there is no access). If you have bats on your property we encourage you to live with them or exclude bats in a way that doesn’t harm them. Visit bcbats.ca for more information.
You may have heard of white-nose syndrome, the result of a European fungus that is killing millions of bats in North America. Unfortunately, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome was confirmed in the Grand Forks area in April of this year, the first time it’s been recorded in BC.
The Naturalists are part of the citizen science program through the Community Bat Programs of BC. Here are some of their recommendations on what we can do to help bats survive:
Report dead bats from now until May 31st to help understand where white-nose syndrome is in BC. Remember to never touch a dead bat with your bare hands.
Report where you see bats roosting. This could be on your property, on branches, in rock crevasses or under bark on an old dead tree.
Consider joining the Naturalists for the BC Annual Bat Count this summer to help monitor bat populations.
Keep your cats inside or on a leash. Bats only have one pup per year and breeding season has now started. Cats are the #1 predators of bats.
Find out more about bats and the Community Bat Programs of BC at bcbats.ca.
Please email WhistlerNaturalists@gmail.com if you’re interested in getting involved.
Written by Kristina Swerhun