More than a Spooky Symbol of Halloween –
Special Project Underway to Save BC’s At-Risk Bat Population
Vancouver, BC – Considered by experts to be one of the world’s most misunderstood mammals, a
major move is afoot to protect southern British Columbia’s seriously at-risk bat population. BC is home
to 16 species of bats, half of which are currently listed as at-risk due to one or more conservation
concerns, including disease introduced by humans.
With the assistance of a Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) conservation grant, the Nature
Conservancy of Canada is currently working to educate the public on the importance of bats, as well
as document the locations and health of bat habitat, which will in turn provide better knowledge to
conservationists tasked with protecting this sensitive species.
“Bats are portrayed as dangerous pests, especially at this time of year,” says Cori Lausen, Wildlife
Conservation Society Canada’s Bat Biologist. Lausen is working closely with the Nature Conservancy of
Canada on this critical bat conservation effort. “The reality is that bats are some of our most
important species. The public would be surprised to know that bats are incredibly helpful to humans.
They eat large quantities of insects that are harmful to our agriculture and forestry industries and in
some areas of the world they play a key role in pollination, as well as help in seed dispersal.”
“We know that healthy forests need bats. They’re key indicators of ecosystem health,” says Andrew
de Vries, SFI Vice-President, Conservation and Indigenous Relations. “This project was an obvious
choice for an SFI conversation grant as it meets our important conservation and research
requirements, which are aimed at promoting biological diversity, protecting wildlife habitat and
helping SFI participants manage special forest sites.”
One of the biggest issues facing bats is White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that is causing mass bat dieoffs
across North America. Human access to bat hibernation sites may spread this pathogen.
Additionally, preventing human disturbance to bats during hibernation is critical. When bats are
disturbed during hibernation they may abandon their sites, using important energy reserves they need
to survive the winter.
White Nose Syndrome was discovered in 2006. While yet to be found in BC, it’s quickly spreading
across North American and has virtually wiped out bat populations – more than six million bat deaths
– in some areas of Eastern North America including Canada’s Maritimes.
The project will receive a total of $50,000 through the SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships
Grant Program over two years. In addition to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, partners include
Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program Columbia Basin, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests,
Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and BC Timber Sales, and SFI-certified International Forest
Bats are also known to take up residence in both residential and commercial buildings. Lausen says,
“If you come across a colony of bats in your home or business, it’s best to contact wildlife officials
with this information, as we are trying to determine significant locations of roosting bats. If you’d like
to get involved in bat protection there are volunteer bat programs emerging in many BC communities
that can use your help educating the public and advancing tolerance of these unique creatures.”
Get Involved with Bat Conservation
Learn more about bats, how to build your very own bat house, where you can get involved in
community bat programs, and what to do if you ever come across bats on your property at
About Sustainable Forestry Initiative
SFI Inc. is an independent, nonprofit organization that is solely responsible for maintaining,
overseeing and improving the internationally recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®)
program. Across Canada and the United States, more than 100 million hectares (more than 240
million acres) are certified to the SFI forest management standard. In addition, the SFI program’s
unique fiber sourcing requirements promote responsible forest management on all suppliers’ lands.
SFI chain-of-custody (COC) certification tracks the percentage of fiber from certified forests, certified
sourcing and post-consumer recycled content. SFI on-product labels identify both certified sourcing
and COC claims to help consumers make responsible purchasing decisions. SFI Inc. is governed by a
three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally.
Learn more at http://www.sfiprogram.org/and http://sfiprogram.org/Buy-SFI.
About The Nature Conservancy of Canada
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is a private non-profit organization working for the direct
protection of natural habitats and wild spaces across this country. Since 1962, NCC and our partners
have protected over 2.6 million acres of ecologically significant land and water for its intrinsic value
and for future generations. More than 1 million of these protected acres are located in British
Columbia. It is the goal of NCC to protect, manage, and where appropriate, restore natural areas so
they can sustain the ecosystems and species that define them. Learn more at
Busting Bat Lore – Fast Facts
Did you know?
• Bats are the only flying mammals. They are also the primary consumers of nighttime insects.
• Bats can live up to 40 years and usually only give birth to just one pup each year.
• All bats in Canada are insectivorous, consuming up to 100% of their body weight each night in
insects. That works out to about 500 mosquito-sized insects per hour.
• Bats are important to the environment because they eat insects, pollinate plants, and
distribute plant seeds.
• B.C. has 16 species of bats, half of which are currently listed at risk due to one or more
• During the winter bats go into hibernation, where their body temperature and breathing rates
are very low, allowing them to use their fat reserves slowly.
• Most bats cannot feed during the winter and must depend on this limited supply of fat
reserves. Disturbances cause hibernating bats to use stored fat more quickly.
• Bats are sensitive to noise, light and physical disturbances that can bring them out of their
hibernation. Human disturbance of hibernating bats can be a serious threat to their survival.
• Human access to bat hibernation sites may also spread pathogens such as the White Nose
Syndrome, a fungus that is causing mass bat die-offs across North America.
What you can do to help:
• To keep White Nose Syndrome (WNS) from spreading into BC avoid going underground (into
caves or mines) if you have been in any sites in eastern North America or Europe that could
house bats. Spores of this fungal pathogen can be spread in mud on boots, dirt on equipment,
etc. The longer we keep WNS out of the west, the more time this buys researchers to work on
potential prevention or mitigation strategies.
• Get involved in your local bat program; they are always looking for volunteers to help collect
data about local bat populations.
• If bats are roosting in a remote part of your house, isolated from human activity you may want
to consider leaving them undisturbed and providing them a home. They do not gnaw on wood,
wires or insulation and will not damage the structure.
• If bats in your home become a nuisance there are effective, non-toxic ways to evict them. It is
illegal, as well as ineffective, to use pesticides to remove bats. Contact your local SPCA to
assist you in their removal.
• You can provide bats with a safe and suitable home by putting up a bat house on your
property. Used for more than 60 years, bat houses look like bottomless birdhouses.
Ø Learn more about bats, how to build your very own bat house, where you can get involved in
community bat programs, and what to do if you ever come across bats on your property at
Sustainable Forestry Initiative Conservation Grant:
• The Nature Conservancy of Canada has received a total of $50,000 over two years from the
Sustainable Forestry Initiative to support protection of bat populations in southern British
Columbia by creating an inventory of the locations and health of bat habitat.
• Project researchers are creating an inventory of significant bat hibernation sites in British
Columbia’s southern interior and will assess the actions needed to protect these sites from
• This project will build on existing knowledge in the Kootenay regions, and gating is occurring
at high priority sites that have already been identified by previous research, such as the Queen
Installing a backyard bat house is a great way for people to demonstrate their commitment to nature. And the bat-tenants will pay people back with some wonderful benefits. Bats are essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems. Most bats eat huge amounts of insects, including farm pests and many of the nasty bugs that harass outdoor gatherings. This is also a great chance to also enjoy learning more about bats as they come and go from their new home. People can find out more at http://www.batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/install-a-bat-house.html