Bats are an important part of the ecosystem in Waterton Biosphere Reserve (WBR). They are the primary consumers of night-time insects, including mosquitoes and agricultural or forest pests: a single individual can consume 100 times its own weight in insects each year. Improving stewardship for bats was identified as a priority in the Species at Risk Action Plan for Waterton Biosphere Reserve. Their continued presence in WBR is important for both the environment and the economy.
Research in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park found that eight bat species either live in, or migrate through, the region. On the surrounding ranchland and farms, data is scant but studies associated with wind energy development and local knowledge indicate that bats are found throughout the Waterton Biosphere Reserve. Click here for more information about the bat species found in Alberta.
Bats in North America are in threatened by white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats since first noted in the eastern United States in 2006. WNS affects hibernating bats and at some sites, 90 to 100 percent of bats have died. Several species are affected. Three of the hardest hit, little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) and tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) were listed as Endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act in 2014 due to the advancing threat of WNS. WNS has now spread as far west as Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba (2019) and was confirmed in Washington State in 2016. Click here to find out more about WNS.
Bats are long-lived mammals with low reproductive rates (with only 1 pup produced annually over the average 10+ year lifespan for most species), and so are unable to recover quickly from population-level impacts. In addition to the threat of WNS, bat species in WBR are vulnerable to other threats including habitat loss or degradation and stressors such as wind energy development and climate change.
In the face of these population level challenges, WBR began a project in 2019 to work with local landowners to build resiliency for bats, in particular little brown myotis (or little brown bat) (Myotis lucifugus). This project will provide WBR landowners with information and support to identify bat concentrations/roosting areas on their properties, conduct bat monitoring, and implement best practices for roost and foraging habitat management. It is hoped that this will in turn support successful rearing of pups and maximize the health of adults heading into hibernation and so help to contribute to resiliency of the species.
from the Alberta Community Bat Program