Building Resilience for Bats in the Waterton Biosphere Reserve

Bats are an important part of the ecosystem in Waterton Biosphere Reserve (WBR). Unfortunately, bats in North America are 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. Learn more about WNS here.

In the face of 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). A resilient bat population will be quicker to recover from disturbances like WNS or severe weather through adapting to stresses, better resisting disease, and/or sustaining fewer mortalities.

In 2020, a Waterton Biosphere Reserve Conservation Technician will help landowners to identify and monitor maternity roosts for bats, specifically by identifying entry and exit points, conducting roost counts, helping determine the particular bat species through bat detectors and guano collection, and discussing ways to maintain or improve habitat for bats on a given property. To correspond with when mother bats have flightless pups in the colony, the survey window will be from June 1 to June 30. 

Safety for landowners, surveyors, and bats remains our top priority during these uncertain times. Site visits will incorporate the latest Alberta Health Services requirements to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Our precautionary measures will be discussed with landowners prior to scheduling the technician’s visit (or scheduling for spring 2021 if necessary). The virus causing COVID-19 has not been found in North American bats, and wild bats in either natural or man-made roosts have very little chance of transmitting diseases to humans, unless handled without proper protection. Nonetheless, our work will focus on roost monitoring from a distance and identifying ways to steward bat habitat.

If you suspect you have bats roosting on your property, schedule a site visit with our Conservation Technician, Elizabeth, between June 1st and 30th. Scheduling can be done by emailing Elizabeth bats@watertonbiosphere.com or by calling Nora Manners 403-627-1473. Please contact us by May 27th (even if you would be more comfortable scheduling for next spring)!

We want to say a huge thank you to this year’s funders of our Building Resilience for Bats Project, Environment and Climate Change and Land Stewardship Centre of Canada and another big thank you to the Alberta Community Bat Program for their continued support. We greatly appreciate it!  

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