ALBERTA COMMUNITY BAT PROGRAMCategory: 2016, Community Grant, Completed, Grant, Land Use
Bats play a vital ecological role in controlling insects, many of which are considered pests to agriculture and forestry industries. As the longest-lived and slowest reproducing of all small mammals, bats cannot recover quickly from population die-backs. Yet mass mortality of bats caused by the fungal disease White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is already occurring in eastern Canada, and this disease has now appeared in the west. As a result of mass mortalities, three species were recently listed as Endangered in Canada. Two of these (little brown myotis and northern myotis) occur in Alberta, where very little is known about their ecology, especially in winter, when WNS kills bats as they hibernate. Six of the nine species of bats in Alberta are known to winter in the province, placing Alberta at risk of losing substantial biodiversity with potential consequences to ecosystems and the economy.
Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) work in Alberta aims to protect and enhance ecological functions mediated by bats. The Alberta Community Bat program is designed to raise public awareness of the important role bats play in the ecosystem and the unprecedented threats they now face. The project aims to facilitate the active engagement of Alberta citizens in bat conservation through habitat enhancement and protection, identifying significant summer maternity colonies of bats and assisting in baseline data collection and monitoring trends in bat populations. WCS helped initiate a successful model of this in British Columbia and will develop a similar program tailored for Alberta. When it was announced on March 31, 2016 that WNS had been found near Seattle, the BC government immediately turned to the BC Community Bat Program’s established network of landowners, citizen scientists, and the database of known roosts for their emergency WNS response. The goal is to build a similar program in Alberta as soon as possible so that this province will also have a network in place for disease surveillance and evaluation of disease impact, and an avenue for mitigation strategies as WNS creeps closer. This project is the start of a larger, important citizen engagement program to formally establish an urgently needed bat conservation plan for Alberta.
Get involved – locate and monitor roosts! Learn more at http://www.albertabats.ca/