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Species at Risk: Debunking the bat myth

A recent article in the Ottawa Citizen on the increase in the number of bats making their way into people’s homes as a result of the long, hot summer brought some discussion to the CPAWS lunch time table. A week or so after the article was published, we found a bat in our kitchen! He was sleeping when we found him, but after a few attempts to get the little guy into a container to get him out of the kitchen, he took to the air. Thankfully we managed to move him safely outdoors, and needless to say, it created quite the stir in our office!

Bats often get a bad rap, but in fact they can be extremely beneficial. Being nocturnal, bats prey on night-time insects such as moths, beetles and – you guessed it – MOSQUITOES. The next time you see a bat at your campsite or in your backyard, be thankful…they can catch hundreds of insects each hour!

CPAWS staffer Sarah Anne with our newfound friend!

Although it may appear that some bats, like the little brown bat we found in the CPAWS office, are abundant, many bat species are actually declining at quite a drastic rate. Take for example the tri-coloured bat, a species whose population levels have been on a harsh decline recently. Although not yet listed under the federal Species at Risk Act, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has issued an emergency assessment of the species and has designated it as endangered given its rapid decline in population size.

The tri-coloured bat, along with four other bat species, has been hit hard by a disease called White Nose Syndrome. As the name of the disease suggests, a hibernating bat affected by White Nose Syndrome grows patches of white fungus on its nose and other parts of its body, which causes tissue and muscle damage to the bat and affects its physiological functions. Although not much is known about this devastating disease, scientists now believe it’s caused by a fungus brought over to North America from Europe. Some reports have estimated that nearly 6 million bats in North America have died as a result of this disease in the last 6 years.

Having a strong federal Species at Risk Act will help species like the Tri-coloured bat recover. Once listed under the act, a process to stabilize the population and help it recover will be put into place, and will help the population eventually start to increase.

It’s important the federal government hears from Canadians that believe in having a strong federal endangered species laws to ensure that Canada’s wildlife doesn’t go missing – forever. Even if your motivation is to help keep your backyard mosquito population in check, take a moment to send a message to the federal Minister of Environment to let him know why you support having a strong federal Species at Risk Act.


Learn more about the COSEWIC Emergency Assessment of the Tri-coloured bat

Learn more about bats! Bat Conservation International