Sec­ond-ever N.S. sight­ing: Big brown bat turns up in Ox­ford

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Rankin The Chronicle Her­ald

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.”

Sub­mit­ted photo

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.

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