Townsend’s big-eared bats waiting to be counted. J. Craig photo

Seeking volunteers and roosts for BC bat counts

Residents need no experience to count bats at local roost sites, providing needed scientific info.

The Skeena Community Bat Program is seeking volunteers and bat colonies for the Annual Bat Count. This citizen-science initiative encourages residents to count bats at local roost sites.

“Bat counts are a wonderful way for residents to get involved in collecting important scientific information,” said biologist Ashleigh Ballevona, coordinator of the Skeena Community Bat Program. “No special skills are needed, you can be any age, and you can relax in a deck chair while counting.”

The Annual Bat Count will collect baseline data on bat populations before the devastating White Nose Syndrome fungal disease affects bats in the province.

“White Nose Syndrome is estimated to have killed more than seven million bats since it was first discovered in eastern North America a decade ago,” said Mandy Kellner, provincial coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program. “In March 2016, the disease was detected just east of Seattle, and has now spread within Washington State. This has greatly increased our urgency to understand bat populations in B.C. We need the public’s help to census local bat populations — we never know when it is our last year to obtain population estimates before White Nose Syndrome causes widespread declines in western North America.

Counts are easy: volunteers wait outside a known roost site, such as a bat-house, barn, bridge or attic, and count bats as they fly out at twilight. They record the final number along with basic information on weather conditions. Ideally, one or two counts are done between June 1 and 21 before pups are born, and one or two more between July 11 and Aug. 5 when pups are flying.

“We know relatively little about bats in the Skeena, including basic information on population numbers,” said Ballevona. “If people want to get involved but don’t have a roost site on their property, we will try to match them with a roost site nearby.”

Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., and with support of the BC Conservation Foundation and the Province of B.C., the Skeena Community Bat Program provides information for people dealing with bat issues on their property or who have questions about how to attract bats.

To find out more about bat counts, or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit bcbats.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS ext. 19.

–Submitted article

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Volunteers counting bats. (J. Craig photo)

Volunteer waits for bats to emerge. (M. Kellner photo)

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