The Alberta Community Bat Program’s Bat-Friendly Farm Initiative
Farms often provide habitat for bats. Important roosting habitat may occur in outbuildings or mature trees maintained on the farm landscape, and ponds and retained wetlands provide important foraging and drinking habitats needed to support bats.
Healthy communities require a healthy environment. In urban and rural environments, it is increasingly important to maintain natural insect control to reduce the need for insecticides. Bats play an important role in controlling insects that damage crops and trees and cause disease (e.g., mosquitoes and West Nile virus). Bats are estimated to provide billions of dollars’ worth of insect control to the North American agricultural sector. Recent studies in other regions suggest bats may play a significant role in controlling biting insects affecting cattle, which would benefit ranchers by improving health of livestock. However, the invasive fungal disease white-nose syndrome (WNS) is poised to greatly reduce bat populations in Alberta.
The Bat-Friendly Farm Initiative of WCS Canada’s Alberta Community Bat Program will promote bat conservation and bat-friendly management among the public. We will be developing a brochure promoting best practices for bats in the farm environment. We will also be surveying farmers and communities to understand their viewpoints on bats to help address information needs and reasonable actions that can be taken to help conserve bats on Alberta’s farms. We plan to offer unique opportunities to experience the outdoors as part of guided bat walks; provide educational opportunities through presentations (in person and online), information booths, and free resources. The initiative will provide bat management support to farmers and farming communities and use the power of citizen science in both urban and rural areas to monitor bat populations. We also plan to provide and support the capacity for research needed to address important knowledge gaps that limit informed management recommendations. Our initiative will build critical outreach capacity by empowering volunteers and other conservation organizations to be leaders in bat conservation. Our citizen science program aims to identify bat roosting sites, which in addition to yielding helpful monitoring information, will enable new research and conservation initiatives, such as the application of treatments for WNS that are currently in development, and potential dietary studies. The project has been generously supported by the Calgary Foundation and will run until at least September 2021.
Article submitted by Susan Holroyd and Cory Olson, Alberta Community Bat Program, WCS Canada
This featured article is part of our Bat Monthly Newsletter of November 2020. Click here to find the full newsletter.