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Public asked to be on lookout for White Nose Syndrome in bats

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The Province, in partnership with the BC Community Bat Program and other concerned groups, are asking the public to be on the lookout for dead or sick bats that may have contracted an invasive fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome.

“White Nose Syndrome has not been detected in British Columbia; however, it was detected in Washington State in 2016 and the risk of its arrival is very high,” states the Ministry of Environment in an information bulletin.

The disease, which refers to a white fungus that grows on the muzzles or bodies of bats, has killed over 6 million bats since arriving in the eastern United States in 2006 and reaching Canada in 2010. White Nose Syndrome does not infect humans.

White Nose Syndrome kills 80% to 100% of Little Brown and Northern Bats, resulting in an emergency listing of both these species under the federal Species at Risk Act in 2014.

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The Province is responding to the risk of White Nose Syndrome by increasing surveillance, outreach and developing a series of best management practices for protecting bat populations.

The Province is also working with bat experts throughout B.C. and beyond to ensure a co-ordinated approach to detect and mitigate the impact of White Nose Syndrome on bat populations in British Columbia.

This includes working to better understand bat behaviour and use of habitat in B.C., to help design strategies to protect bats, as well as to help them recover from the effects of the disease. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Animal Health Centre is one of two labs in Canada nationally recognized to test for the fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome.

Bats are important to both the environment and economy. Bats are major predators of invertebrates, helping to control forest, agriculture and urban pests. For example, endangered Little Brown Bats can eat 600 mosquitoes per hour. Researchers estimate that bats provide billions of dollars in pest control services annually in North America.

Do not attempt to capture sick or injured bats and do not touch a dead bat with your bare hands due to a risk of rabies. If you do find a dead bat, collect it in a plastic bag using leather gloves and label the bag with the date, location, your name and contact information, then put the bag in the freezer and contact the BC Community Bat Program.

(Files from BC Ministry of Environment)

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