White-nose fungus threatening Okanagan bat populations

White-nose syndrome is decimating populations as it moves West

Bats in B.C. are at risk of contracting white-nose syndrome and researchers are asking the public to help track the fungus’ spread.

The disease has ravaged bat populations in eastern North America and is spreading west after testing found it in bats near the United States and B.C. border.

“The fungus attacks bats while they are hibernating and, much like mold on bread, spreads over a bat’s wings and face. This gives the appearance of a white nose,” says Ella Braden, Okanagan coordinator with the B.C. Community Bat Program. “Bats often wake up from their hibernation to clean the fungus off their skin.”

Unfortunately, food is sparse when bats wake up early from their hibernation. The fungus weakens bats infected bats, causing most to perish.

Deceased bat (R. Gervais/ B.C. Community Bat Program)

“To monitor the spread of the disease, we need more eyes on the ground,” Braden said “we are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to the B.C. Community Bat Program.”

If you see a dead bat or witness winter bat activity, please report it to the B.C. Community Bat Program online at bcbats.ca, via email at Okanagan@bcbats.ca or by calling 1-855-922-2287 ext. 13.

READ MORE: Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

If if it is suspected that the bat is infected with white-nose syndrome, the Bat Program may collect the carcass for testing.

Sleeping bats should be left alone and not disturbed. The B.C. Community Bat Program asks people to keep their distance and to take a photo to report the bat sighting, if possible.

If a bat has chosen an unsuitable roosting spot and it must be moved, the Bat Program asks that people visit the ‘Excluding bats from a building’ portion of their website for more information.

The Program wished to remind the public to never touch a dead bat with their bare hands.

Bat being handled in gloved hands (stock photo)

READ MORE: Bats aren’t pests, droppings didn’t need to be disclosed to house buyers: B.C. judge


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Jacqueline.Gelineau@kelownacapnews.com

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