White nose syndrome is a fungal disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats in eastern North America. (Submitted)

Disease threatens bat population

Community Bat Program co-ordinators are collecting reports of unusual bat activity across southern B.C.

The search continues for white nose syndrome, a fungal disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats in eastern North America.

Community Bat Program co-ordinators are collecting reports of unusual bat activity across southern B.C. and ensuring that dead bats are sent to the Canadian Wildlife Health Centre lab for disease testing. To-date, no WNS has been reported in the province, but it was detected in Washington State last spring.

“Spring conditions mean increased bat activity and an increased chance of detecting the WNS disease. As bats begin to leave hibernation and return to their summering grounds, our chances of seeing live or dead bats increases, and the program is continuing to ask for assistance,” said Mandy Kellner, coordinator of the B.C. Community Bat Program.

The public can report dead bats or any sightings of daytime bat activity to their local community bat project as soon as possible at 1-855-922-2287 ext.13 or okanagan@bcbats.ca.

“In the Okanagan, we have 14 species of bats. They all eat insects, including those that impact the agricultural and forest industry and those that are disease-spreading pests such as mosquitoes,” said Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, Okanagan Community Bat Program co-ordinator.

Never touch a bat with your bare hands as bats can carry rabies, a deadly disease.

“Currently there are no treatments for white nose syndrome. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations with the resilience to rebound,” said Rodriguez de la Vega.

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