Help bats for halloween

Local initiative builds bat shelters in communities.

As Halloween approaches, images of scary, blood-sucking bats become commonplace. Since the goal of the Kootenay Community Bat Project (KCBP) is to promote bat conservation, this is the perfect time of year to counter these bat myths and do something to help bats.

“The conservation of bats in B.C. has always been important since over half the species in this province are considered at risk” said Juliet Craig, Coordinating Biologist for the KCBP. “However, since the introduction of White Nose Syndrome, a disease that is devastating bat populations where it has spread, bat conservation is more important than ever.”

White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a disease caused by an introduced fungus that was first detected in a cave in New York in 2006. Since it was discovered, it has spread to 26 states and five provinces in North America, decimating bat populations along the way. An estimated six million bats have died from this disease so far and the number continues to climb.

“Luckily White Nose Syndrome is not yet in B.C.” said Craig, “But we are preparing for its arrival by raising awareness about bats, working with landowners who have bats in buildings, enhancing bat habitat, and monitoring populations.”

Building bat-houses is one way to encourage healthy bat populations. With the decline of large trees and undisturbed rock features, some bat species have adapted to using human-made structures, such as bat-houses. These small boxes have several crevices inside that provide a safe, dry habitat where bats can roost during summer months.

“Bat-houses are particularly important for maternity colonies where groups of female bats roost together to have their pup during the summer” states Craig. “A well-designed bat-house installed in a good location can provide a home for hundreds of bats.”

Funded by the Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, Habitat Stewardship Program, and the Public Conservation Assistance Fund, the KCBP provides educational programs on bats, conducts site visits to landowners with bats in buildings, and offers a program called “Building Homes for Bats” where they reimburse the cost of materials to residents who build and install two bat-houses on their property.

To find out more about the Building Homes for Bats reimbursement program or to download plans for a bat-house, visit Kootenaybats.com.