While bats are difficult to see during the day, the Regional District of Central Okanagan is shedding some light on these nocturnal creatures through an educational exhibit.
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From now until mid-July, this free event is an opportunity for the public to learn a little about the 14 different bat species that call the Okanagan home.
“It’s great to be at an exhibition like this — walk around and read the exhibits and learn more,” explained Rose Mounder, RDCO interpreter.
“You can see the skeletons, the shapes and sizes of these special animals and learn some really cool facts.”
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According to Mander, bats play an important role in the Okanagan ecosystem, especially when it comes to pest control during the summer months.
“Bats love mosquitoes, so if you’re not a big fan of mosquitoes, you should really love bats,” Mander said.
“There are some areas where they are more common, for example in the Peachlands, but we also know that John Family Nature Conservancy Region Park, it is a roosting site for some of our bat populations.
A roosting site refers to a place where bats sleep during the day or hibernate during the colder months. In BC, bats roost among rocks, hollow trees, caves, tunnels, and bridges.
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However, these essential night commuters are facing danger. A certain fungal disease that has wiped out more than 16 million bats — white-nose syndrome — first identified back in 2006 — has some biologists worried. They worry it’s getting closer to B.C. after it’s been found in Washington state and Alberta.
“When they’re roosting in the wintertime, they get a little fungus on their nose, and they wake up to try to get rid of the problem,” explains Mander.
“What happens when they wake up is they actually lose a lot of their fat stores that they would normally need to get through the winter months and unfortunately that kills them.”
The deadly disease does not affect humans, but the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says it has the potential to kill 100% of bats in a colony during hibernation.
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The Okanagan Community Bat Program is asking for the public’s help in detecting and preventing the spread of the disease. Residents are asked to report any bat activity during the winter and any sick or dead bats by May 31.