Help count Delta’s bats, which aren’t to blame for COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a negative spotlight on bats, due to concerns over B.C. bats carrying the virus. This association is a myth, according to Community Bat Programs of BC.

The group says bats in B.C. do not have or spread the virus responsible for COVID-19 and that misinformation can lead to unfounded fear and persecution of bats.

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In reality, bats are an essential part of the ecology, consuming thousands of insects each night. One colony of 100 bats can eat 19 kilograms (42 pounds) of insects during the summer.

Bats in B.C. suffer from many threats, and almost half of the 15 species are at-risk. One of the more familiar species, the Little Brown Myotis, is now endangered in Canada.

A simple way to support bats is to participate in the BC Annual Bat Count from June 1 to Aug. 5. The BC Community Bat Program is aware of over 40 bat colonies in buildings and 50 bat boxes in the Greater Vancouver area, including about 10 in Delta.

“The counts are a wonderful way for people to get outside, respect social distancing guidelines, and be involved in collecting important scientific information,” says biologist Danielle Dagenais, regional coordinator for the Greater Vancouver-Squamish region of the BC Community Bat Program.

You simply wait outside a known roost site, such as a bat-box, barn or attic, and count bats as they fly out of their roost at twilight. Ideally, four counts are done during the counting season, with a priority of two counts in June.

In 2019, the BC Annual Bat Count collected baseline data on bat populations at 337 sites across the province, and hopes to monitor these sites and more for 2020. The count data helps bat biologists understand bat distribution and normal variation in colony sizes before bats face impacts from a devastating bat disease called white-nose syndrome.  

White-nose syndrome is an introduced fungal disease, fatal for bats but not for other animals or humans. Not yet identified in B.C., the disease continues to spread in Washington state, less than 200 kilometres from the border. Results from the count may help prioritize areas in B.C. for research into treatment options and recovery actions.

“We know relatively little about bats in B.C., including basic information on population numbers,” says Dagenais. “This information is more valuable than ever, particularly if it is collected annually.”

To find out more about bat counts or white-nose syndrome, to report a dead bat or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit www.bcbats.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS ext. 11.

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