Second-ever N.S. sighting: Big brown bat turns up in Oxford
Barry ‘The Bat Man’ Bowman had been waiting more than a decade for the call he received last Wednesday.
A bat had been spotted inside a trailer at the Oxford Frozen Foods plant, and being the facility’s occupational health and safety officer, it was his job to get rid of it.
Little did Bowman know that he was about to make a rare finding. The bat wasn’t just any bat — it was a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). It would be only the second documented sighting of that particular species in Nova Scotia. He said the bat had to have found a home in the Oxford region since the trailer had not moved from its location in months.
“It was exciting, so I took a picture and my wife posted it on Facebook,” said Bowman. “People are really excited about it. A dozen years or so ago, I’d have to deal with bats around the plant on a pretty regular basis. But this is the first time in about 10 years.”
Identifying the creature would prove to be a challenge. While Bowman was convinced he had discovered a big brown bat, the Department of Natural Resources officer who arrived
on scene thought otherwise, and had labelled it a little brown bat before setting it free into the wild. Both species are very similar in size and appearance, but there are subtle differences and the smaller species has been decimated in Nova Scotia due in large part to white-nose syndrome.
Andrew Hebda, the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History’s zoology curator, took a second look and determined that the Bat Man was in all likelihood
right. Bowman had made an exceptionally rare sighting.
The photo shows the bat roosting on a small 51/4-inch platform. Using that measurement, Hebda was able to scale the creature’s limbs and determined it was a fully grown big brown bat. He said the platform would have to be almost two inches smaller to match up with the dimensions of a fully grown little brown bat.
The larger bat had other distinguishing differences, including a larger snout and slightly different-shaped ears.
Hebda said it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions from the sighting. While the majority of big brown bats can be found in central and western Canada, a small number make their home in southern New Brunswick. Given Oxford’s close proximity to the province, the creature could have simply wandered outside of its natural habitat in search of food.
“It’s not that unusual to get the odd bat out of its normal range,” said Hebda. “It’s rare but that’s because we’re right at the end of the range.
“This would be the second record that we have if the trailer hasn’t moved for a period of time, that is a couple of weeks. But we record these events. If this is the beginning of a change, what would be causing that change, or is it a random thing?
“Are they moving east? If that’s the case, what else could be changing, what other species may we be expecting to see?”
Bowman said he last spotted what he believed to be a big brown bat in Cape Breton five years ago.
“I like to think bats are the cotter pins of our ecosystems. They’re critical in maintaining insect populations, among other things. This gives us hope that their species is on the rise here. We’ll see.”
A big brown bat found in a trailer at Oxford Frozen Foods plant. Majority of big brown bats found in western Canada, but a small number make their home in New Brunswick and it’s possible this one came from there.