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Promoting Public Awareness Of Wildlife Habitats Through Environmental Education

Species at Risk!

Bats

Not surprisingly, people often have a negative perception of bats. Throughout history bats have played a major role in mythology, being associated with witchcraft, black magic and darkness. Of course, bats are also the animal that is associated with vampire legend and symbolize the underworld. This stereotype is of course perpetuated by the species that is actually called the vampire bat and feeds on blood; despite the fact that they have rarely been noted to eat the blood of humans. Despite all of the negative imagery that is connected to bats, they are actually tremendously useful and important. The majority of bats, especially in our area, are insectivores that protect crops and eat annoying insects such as mosquitos. These animals play an invaluable role in our ecosystems as they control the insect population and provide a food source for many animals.

Unfortunately, the population of bats in Ontario is rapidly decreasing and three species have been placed on the Ontario species of risk list. The Northern long-eared bat, the Eastern small foot Myotis and the little brown bat have all been added to the species at risk list since early 2013. These species are suffering from a disease known as white-nose syndrome. In the last 7 years, this syndrome has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of cave bats. It began in North Eastern United States in 2007 and spread its way through to South Western Quebec and North Eastern Ontario in 2010. It is currently confirmed in 22 states and 5 provinces across North America.

This syndrome is a fungus that grows in the skin of the bat and produces a fuzzy, white substance on the muzzle, wings and ears. This fungus results in an inability to metabolise water, causing the bats to come out of hibernation earlier than they should. Because they have exhausted their stored energy and there are no food resources available, they do not survive the winter. Current research has shown that there is a 90-100% mortality rate for any bat species infected with white-nose syndrome.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has deemed that these particular bat species and their general habitat are automatically protected. How can you help? The MNR tracks species at risk and reporting sightings of any of the endangered bat species or bats that show symptoms of white-nose syndrome can help current research. Taking photos and reporting any unusual bat behaviour or deaths to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Heath Centre can help authorities reduce the spreading of this horrible disease. Private land owners may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection of endangered bat species should they find them on their property.

 

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