BC & Alberta Bat Action Team Meeting Summary
Blue Lake, September 13-15, 2019
The British Columbia Bat Action Team (BC BAT) is a group of professional biologists, academic researchers, veterinarians, environmental educators, students, naturalists, wildlife rehabilitators, government biologists, and other people that are interested in bat conservation in BC. BC BAT developed the 2016 – 2020 Action Plan In Response to the Threat of White-nose Syndrome. http://www.bcbat.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/BCBAT-Action-Plan.pdf. The Team holds regular meetings to review and update the plan, and to coordinate its strategic implementation. For this purpose, BC BAT convened for the first time in conjunction with the Alberta Bat Action Team at Blue Lake in September 2019. This document represents a summary of this meeting. Specific documents will be developed to summarize working sessions and updates to the BC Bat Action Plan. These documents will be made available through BC BAT as they become available.
The first interprovincial British Columbia-Alberta Bat Action Team (BAT) was held on Sept 13-15, 2019 at Blue Lake Camp, in the beautiful Purcell Mountains west of the Village of Canal Flats, BC. In total, 32 individuals representing academics, government – both federal and provincial (AB and BC), conservation groups, and consultants attended the 2-day strategic planning meeting. The meeting had broad geographic representation from regions across the two provinces, including the Kootenays, Okanagan, lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Peace, Edson, Calgary, Lethbridge and Edmonton regions.
Meeting support was generously provided by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program – Columbia, Coastal and Peace regions, BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, VAST Resource Solutions, Cranbrook Pest Control, and Over Time Beer Works.
The group held focal discussion sessions addressing the following topics:
- Current status of actions in the BC and Alberta Bat Action Plans;
- Overview from the National White Nose Syndrome (WNS) Scientific Program Coordinator (Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative), Jordi Segers;
- Outreach (combined with BC and Alberta Community Bat Programs);
- North American Bat Monitoring program (NA Bat), overwintering habitat, research priorities and directions;
- WNS surveillance and response plan;
- Best management practices (BMPs) and the inclusion of bats in environmental impact processes;
- BC Community Bat Program updates, new programs, issues and direction;
- Research projects and directions for BC and Alberta; and,
- Revisions to the BC Bat Action Plan.
The group concluded Saturday evening with a hands-on demonstration of the most recent advances in acoustic detection and analysis of bat calls, promotional material used to engage with the public, Pd/WNS-related decontamination protocols, and a database used to store, organize and summarize community bat-related information. We also watched the Telus-supported film ‘Bats of Alberta’ filmed and produced by Alberta resident, Jason Headley, with discussion about future production of a Bats of BC film as an outreach tool.
In addition to information sharing and networking, our meeting had the following outcomes. We:
- reviewed the BC bat action plan and revised priorities based on changing threats and an assessment of knowledge gaps to date; a status column was added to the action plan table to plot progress;
- developed a BC/AB WNS communication response plan with the direction of the Canadian WNS Coordinator;
- identified and prioritized selected key public outreach messages; coordination of these messages by both provinces and strategies will amplify both outreach and engagement;
- brainstormed strategies to improve participation rates of the citizen science program targeting roost reporting and population monitoring of bats;
- discussed the growing need to improve communication with federal government agencies and coordinate bat conservation efforts throughout western Canada;
- obtained a commitment by Parks Canada representatives to develop a draft protocol for use of bat boxes within the federal agency and obtain review from the BC and AB bat action teams;
- listed concerns regarding use of bat boxes and the messaging surrounding bat boxes; came to consensus on some recommendations for use of bat boxes including managing bats in buildings;
- identified next steps for NABat monitoring in BC including northern expansion and working towards streamlining the program to reduce costs; some program revisions are pending statistical analyses;
- developed a strategy to approach the study and identification of bat overwintering habitat in western Canada, building on the NABat grid system and use of acoustic monitoring;
- produced a list of follow-up actions to communicate best management practices for bats and wildlife habitat features identification of both bat nursery and hibernation roosts;
- reviewed the research projects currently underway in B.C. and learned about the focus of Dr. Erin Baerwald’s first BC Bat lab at the University of Northern BC in Prince George, BC; a list of Alberta research projects is being developed by members of the AB bat action team and will be distributed.
For further information about the 2019 BC & Alberta Bat Action Team Meeting, please contact Leigh Anne Isaac (Cell: 1-250-919-1436).
Submitted by Leigh Anne Isaac of the Kootenay Community Bat Project and Senior Wildlife Biologist at Vast Resource Solutions