Counters going to bat for bats

A local conservation group is looking for volunteers to count the number of bats at known roost sites in an effort to better understand the threatened and vulnerable species.

Volunteers will wait at spots where bats are known to roost, such as barns, bridges and attics, and count the animals as they fly out at twilight. They record the number of bats seen, as well as relevant weather conditions.

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Habitat Acquisition Trust is hosting a training day May 26 from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park for would-be citizen scientists to learn bat-counting protocol.

All 10 bat species on Vancouver Island are threatened by habitat loss, predation by cats and white-nose syndrome, a disease that has migrated from Eastern Canada, according to information from the trust’s website.

Little is known about bat numbers in B.C., said Paige Erickson-McGee, stewardship co-ordinator at the trust. Bat count data helps biologists better understand the animals’ distribution and colony sizes across the province.

The count is organized by the B.C. Community Bat Program every year. It is ideally done for a few weeks starting in early June before baby bats, called pups, are born, and in mid-July, when pups are flying. In 2018, volunteers helped to collect data on bat populations at 214 roost sites.

“This information is more valuable than ever, particularly if it is collected annually,” Erickson-McGee said.

Estraven Lupino-Smith, co-ordinator of the trust’s bat stewardship program, said the counts are a fun way for people to help collect scientific information and learn about bat behaviour.

The B.C. Community Bat Program provides information on how people can safely deal with bats living on their properties.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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