Keeping track of bats in the Okanagan

Seeking bat colonies and volunteers for B.C. bat counts

How many bats are out there in the Okanagan?

That’s what the B.C. Community Bat Program for the Okanagan region seeking to track with the annual bat count, and their looking for both bat colonies and volunteers.

A Townsend’s big-eared bat is one of the species people may encounter. S. Laughlin photo

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 ecologist Paula Rodriguez de la Vega, Okanagan co-ordinator for the 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 Rodriguez de la Vega, adding that the disease started spreading through Washington State in March 2016, when it was detected just east of Seattle.

“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.”

Related: Researchers watching for spread of white nose syndrome

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 Okanagan and Similkameen, including basic information on population numbers,” said Rodriguez de la Vega. “This information will be extremely valuable, particularly if it is collected annually. 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.”

To find out more about bat counts, or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit www.bcbats.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS, ext.13.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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