En­dan­gered bats com­pli­cate projects

Lo­cal de­vel­op­ments held up for habi­tat study, ac­com­mo­da­tion mea­sures

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MARK MC­NEIL

To the un­trained eye a bat is a bat. They eerily swoop around in the pale moon­light some­times fly­ing into your home or through your hair.

But in re­cent years, cer­tain bat species, such as the lit­tle brown my­otis and north­ern my­otis, have suf­fered star­tling de­clines and be­come listed as en­dan­gered. This has led to Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Forestry bi­ol­o­gists start­ing to de­mand habi­tat stud­ies at devel­op­ment projects to de­ter­mine if the crea­tures are us­ing trees in a pro­ject’s path­way. If en­dan­gered bats are present, sub­sti­tute breed­ing habi­tat has to be cre­ated or the trees are to be left alone.

Now the is­sue has come to roost in Hamil­ton with two ma­jor con­struc­tion projects be­ing held up this sum­mer by con­cerns about en­dan­gered bats — the $3-mil­lion sports park pro­ject at Con­fed­er­a­tion Park and a 20-hectare ex­pan­sion of the An­caster Busi­ness Park.

“I think as a city we’re go­ing to have to start bet­ter un­der­stand­ing what it means for fu­ture projects when it comes to en­dan­gered bats,” Cyn­thia Gra­ham, the city’s man­ager of land­scape ar­chi­tec­tural ser­vices, said.

As well, she said, the area is so new that no one is clear about the costs in­volved in restor­ing suit­able habi­tat for en­dan­gered bats which are dis­placed by con­struc­tion.

With the sports park devel­op­ment — that pro­poses a cricket field and 12 pick­le­ball courts — bats were dis­cov­ered last sum­mer and ac­com­mo­da­tion mea­sures are be­ing worked out that could in­clude ev­ery­thing

from re­for­est­ing an 0.87-hectare lot to in­stalling “bat boxes” and other faux breed­ing grounds, said Gra­ham.

In the busi­ness park ex­am­ple, the MNRF has re­quested a de­vel­oper go through a habi­tat study to de­ter­mine if my­otis bat species or the more re­cently listed tri-coloured bat are us­ing a wood­lot that is slated to have a new road pass through it.

“If they find ev­i­dence of the bats in that area, we’ll have to look at what mit­i­ga­tion should be put in place,” said Guy Paparella, the city’s di­rec­tor of growth.

Habi­tat stud­ies, that are re­quired be­fore an En­dan­gered Species Act per­mit is granted, usu­ally in­volve acous­tic mon­i­tor­ing, said Anne Marie Lau­rence, man­age­ment bi­ol­o­gist with the MNRF.

“Bats pro­duce high fre­quency calls — most not audi­ble to hu­mans — at night when they hunt prey and nav­i­gate ... acous­tic mon­i­tors can record these calls and soft­ware can be used to iden­tify species,” she wrote in an email.

Paparella says devel­op­ers mak­ing al­lowances for species at risk is noth­ing new. Rare birds — such as the bobolink that likes grass­land ar­eas — and sala­man­ders have led to nu­mer­ous re­drafted plans over the years in the prov­ince.

The high­est pro­file ex­am­ple in Hamil­ton of re­cent times in­volved the south­ern fly­ing squir­rel.

The rare squir­rel was dis­cov­ered in the Red Hill Val­ley — where the park­way was to be built. Its habi­tat was restored by us­ing a se­ries of gi­ant tele­phone poles as faux trees for the squir­rels to fly be­tween.

“But I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s the first time I have had to deal with bats,” said Paparella, who is in­volved with the An­caster devel­op­ment.

The pro­tec­tion for bats comes af­ter mil­lions have died from white-nose syn­drome, a type of fun­gal growth around the muz­zle and on the wings of hi­ber­nat­ing bats.

Lau­rence said the bats look for trees of all types and like lo­ca­tions with abun­dant in­sects.

“To give birth to and raise their young, lit­tle brown my­otis and north­ern my­otis se­lect trees with loose bark, cracks, crevices, hol­lows and cav­i­ties,” said Lau­rence.

“Larger and taller trees may be se­lected more of­ten since they re­ceive more sun­light which cre­ates a warmer en­vi­ron­ment for pups to grow.”

I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s the first time I have had to deal with bats. GUY PAPARELLA CITY OF HAMIL­TON

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Bats are in need of pro­tec­tion as a fun­gus dec­i­mates their pop­u­la­tion num­bers.

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