White nose syn­drome

Dead bat prompts questions

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY MAR­TINE BLUE martineblue­news@gmail.com

A cat named Fluffy re­cently brought a dead bat home to her hu­man in Port Aux Basques.

Since few peo­ple re­port see­ing bats in the area, this led to many questions about bats.

For in­for­ma­tion on these of­ten-mys­ti­fy­ing crea­tures, The Gulf News reached out to Shelley Moores, se­nior man­ager of Wildlife Re­search with the prov­ince’s depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment.

Moores says while her depart­ment doesn’t have a spe­cific pop­u­la­tion es­ti­ma­tion for the Port aux Basques area, bats are com­mon across the is­land.

“We ac­tu­ally had, up un­til this year, re­ally healthy bat pop­u­la­tions,” Moores says. “They like hu­man dwellings, so on the edge of forests or in towns that are in forested ar­eas is where we gen­er­ally see more.”

While she doesn’t ac­tu­ally have the bat Fluffy brought home in front of her to ex­am­ine, Moores fig­ures it was a lit­tle brown bat, which are gen­er­ally found within ma­ter­nal colonies in hu­man struc­tures.

“One of the things we ask the pub­lic to do is if they do find any dead bats, if they don’t want to han­dle them them­selves, is to let the lo­cal Forestry and Wildlife of­fices know,” she ad­vises. Two species

Moores says there are two species of bats in this prov­ince: north­ern long my­otis and lit­tle brown my­otis.

“They are from the same genus and look very sim­i­lar. They just (have) a lit­tle dif­fer­ence in their ears,” she says.

One has a longer tragis in­side its ear.

“Lit­tle brown my­otis is the one you see closer to hu­mans and hu­man dwellings,” Moores noted. “They are the ones that get the big ma­ter­nal colonies in barns, sheds and peo­ple’s at­tics.”

Males in both species are soli­tary. They go off on their own.

Fe­males of north­ern long my­otis are of­ten found in old snags, hol­lowed out logs.

“They don’t use hu­man struc­tures,” says Moores.

Both species were as­sessed by the Com­mit­tee on The Sta­tus of En­dan­gered Wildlife in Canada as en­dan­gered. Un­der fed­eral leg­is­la­tion they are listed as en­dan­gered na­tion­ally.

“We’re look­ing at, now that we have the (white nose) disease here, at po­ten­tial con­ser­va­tion mea­sures here as well,” Moores says. “They are not listed in the pro­vin­cial en­dan­gered species act, but we’re in the process now of fig­ur­ing out what’s next.”

Moores says al­though they know bats play a vi­tal role in the en­vi­ron­ment, the ex­tent of their im­pact is not fully un­der­stood yet.

“We don’t know all the ben­e­fits be­cause we don’t know their role in the ecosys­tem en­tirely. We do know they have a huge role to play in in­sect con­trol,” she said. “We don’t know what kind of role they might have for spread­ing seeds be­cause they do stop and land on the sur­face of plants, so they might be mov­ing other things around from plant to plant.

“There could be ad­di­tional, what we call ecosys­tem ser­vices, that bats pro­vide that we aren’t aware of.”

Re­port sight­ings

The Cana­dian Wildlife Health Co-op­er­a­tive set up a toll-free num­ber to re­port bat sight­ings 1-833-434-BATS.

“The hot­line has great info on what to do if you have bats in your house, or if you have any health and safety concerns,” Moores says. “They take records of day­time fly­ing bats, be­cause usu­ally there is some­thing off about them. They (also) take notes on any win­ter sight­ings.”

Within the prov­ince, Moores is hop­ing to have a web por­tal up and run­ning by next year so peo­ple can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on bat sight­ings.

“Next sum­mer we’re hop­ing to start a cit­i­zen sci­ence project where we will get any­one in­ter­ested in keep­ing an eye out or any­one who knows about a ma­ter­nal colony, to con­tact us,” Moores says. “We’re try­ing to get ac­counts and records of where they are, as many ma­ter­nal colonies as we can.”

“We know we have a good pop­u­la­tion and we know a lot of them stick around here for the win­ter, but we don’t know where they go.

Moores said they are hop­ing to keep tabs on where we know there are ma­ter­nal colonies.

“So, peo­ple who know they have a ma­ter­nal colony in a cabin, or a barn or old shed, if they are will­ing to leave them alone, we’d like them to tell us where the sites are and count the bats in them,” she said.

Moores said they have pro­to­col for count­ing bats as they come out of their ma­ter­nal roosts.

“We’re look­ing for a longterm picture,” she said. “We want to roll that out be­fore next sum­mer, have a lit­tle por­tal on­line where you can down­load the info on do­ing a ma­ter­nal colony count and an e-mail link to send us the info.”

For now, this win­ter they are hop­ing any­one who sees any­thing un­usual on the land­scape, any dead bats, will let their lo­cal Forestry and Wildlife of­fice know.

Moores rec­om­mends that the pub­lic shouldn’t han­dle bats and if they do that they han­dle them with thick leather gloves.

Bats are known to carry ra­bies. How­ever, she says her depart­ment hasn’t had a case of bat ra­bies in a very long time.

DEPART­MENT OF FISH­ERIES AND LAND RE­SOURCES

A bat col­lected in Steady Brook with some of the dam­age from white-nose syn­drome vis­i­ble around its face.

GARY SHAW — SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

A cat named Fluffy re­cent brought what is be­lieved to be a lit­tle brown bat home to her Port aux Basques owner. Bats are cur­rently con­sid­ered en­dan­gered due to white nose syn­drome.

DEPART­MENT OF FISH­ERIES AND LAND RE­SOURCES

Fish­eries and Land Re­sources bi­ol­o­gist Jes­sica Hum­ber swabs a bat to test for white nose syn­drome.

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