GOING TO BAT FOR BATS: ENGAGING ALBERTANS IN BAT CONSERVATIONCategory: 2018, Current, Grant, Land Use, Major Project
WCS Canada continues using citizen science in Alberta to prevent White-nose Syndrome (WNS) from spreading in our important bat population. Bats play a vital ecological role in our ecosystems, especially controlling insects, many of which are considered pests to agriculture, forestry and tourism. These small but mighty creatures are the longest-lived and slowest reproducing of all small mammals, and they cannot recover quickly from population die-backs. As a result of the large-scale WNS deaths in the east, three bat species were recently listed as Endangered in Canada. Two (little brown myotis and northern myotis) occur in Alberta.
Six of the nine species of bats in Alberta are known to hibernate in the province, putting Alberta at risk of losing substantial biodiversity with potential ecosystem and economic consequences. Focusing on Alberta’s two endangered species, WCS Canada will locate where bats roost in winter, the season during which WNS kills bats, and summer maternity colonies where bats raise young, focusing on the two recently endangered species.
With the arrival of the fatal WNS in the west, they know citizen science programs are absolutely essential to the growing urgency of this project and for bat conservation in Alberta. WCS Canada will continue to engage a strong network of cavers, naturalists, landowners, and biologists who are assisting in their long-term bat conservation efforts, incrementally expanding the Alberta Community Bat Program (ACBP) which works with landowners and the public, to cover a wider area.
Moving forward they plan to expand Alberta BatCaver (a caving network) and the ACBP, returning to known and important sites to monitor the health of bats and confirm their populations. Alberta BatCaver has been instrumental in identifying significant new bat hibernacula in Alberta, collecting cave samples to confirm species, surveying the population for WNS, and documenting roost microclimates to predict WNS impact (fungal growth). This project will increase public knowledge that helps the conservation and science community develop strategies to reduce the WNS impacts.