Okanagan biologists listening in on bats

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Okanagan biologists listening in on bats – Aug 4, 2016

The Okanagan has the largest bat biodiversity in Canada but how many there are is still a mystery. However, biologists are hoping a new continent-wide project will give them a better understanding of the bat population in North America.

“Bats are really hard to count. Their population, we just have no idea,” said Tanya Luszcz, a wildlife biologist.

Luszcz has set up stations in various regions of the valley to eavesdrop on the nocturnal creatures.

The project will take place each summer over a span of five years.

Scientists are racing against the clock because of a deadly disease called White-Nose syndrome.

READ MORE:  White-nose syndrome found in WA state could spell disease for B.C. bats

About 5.7 million bats have been killed in North America since the disease first infested the flying mammal in 2006.

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White-nose syndrome is having a devastating impact on Canadian bats. Little Brown bat, Northern bat and Tri-coloured bat have been federally listed as endangered.

“A super common bat, such as the Little Brown bat, has become endangered,” said Luszcz. “[Bats] play an important role for us in terms of insect consumption which we take for granted.”

Scientists are capturing the sound of the bats’ echolocation to figure out the kinds of species and size of population.

The Okanagan Bat Project is a similar initiative but will require the help of locals.

Coordinator Margaret Holm is requesting residents to help kick track of the bat colonies on their properties.

“We have five species of bats that do like to roost in people’s sheds, barns and homes,” Holms said. “We really need to know the numbers, so we can see if this disease does come here and affect those bats. A lot of that information is going to come from the average homeowner with a bat colony.”

Biologists hope to better understand the insect predator so they can be better protected.

WATCH BELOW: A disease that’s already killed 6 million bats across North America is predicted to arrive in BC within 10 years. Kylie Stanton has the story.


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