Volunteers sought for bat counts

This citizen-science initiative encourages residents to count bats at local roost sites

The Okanagan Community Bat Program is looking for volunteers and bat colonies for the Annual Bat Count.

This citizen-science initiative encourages residents to count bats at local roost sites.

“Bat counts are a wonderful way for residents to get involved in collecting important scientific information” said program coordinator Paula Rodriguez de la Vega. “No special skills are needed, kids can be involved, and you can relax in a deck chair while counting.”

This year the bat count will collect baseline data on bat populations before the White Nose Syndrome fungal disease affects bats in the province.

“White Nose Syndrome is estimated to have killed more than six million bats since it was first discovered in eastern North America a decade ago,” said biologist Mandy Kellner, coordinator of the B.C. Community Bat Program.

“In March 2016, the disease was detected just east of Seattle. This has greatly increased our urgency to understand bat populations in B.C. We need the public’s help to census local bat populations. The summer of 2017 may be our last year to obtain population estimates before White Nose Syndrome causes widespread declines in western North America.”

Volunteers wait outside a known roost site, such as a bat house, barn, bridge or attic, and count bats as they fly out at twilight.

They record the final number along with basic information on weather conditions. Ideally, one to two counts are done between June 1 and 21 before pups are born, and one to two more are done between July 11 and Aug. 5 when pups are flying.

“We know relatively little about bats in the Okanagan including basic information on population numbers,” says Rodriguez de la Vega.

“This information will be extremely valuable, particularly if it is collected annually. If people want to get involved but don’t have a roost site on their property, we will try to match them with a roost site nearby.”

The bat count is funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and with support of the B.C. Conservation Foundation, the Province of B.C., the Osoyoos Desert Centre, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance, Peachland Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society, and the Allan Brooks Nature Centre, the Okanagan Community Bat Program provides information for people dealing with bat issues on their property or have questions about how to attract bats.

For more information or to register for a bat count, or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit www.bcbats.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS ext. 13 or email okanagan@bcbats.ca.