White-nose syndrome surveillance in Canada
White-nose syndrome (WNS) was first discovered on hibernating bats in 2006 in New York, and since then has spread to 22 states and 5 provinces where it has devastated bat populations. More than six million bats have been killed by Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly Geomyces destructans), which is a cold-loving fungus that is not native to North America. The CCWHC is responsible for examining and diagnosing WNS in all submitted bats, as well as coordinating Canada’s response to this disease. Agency and university personnel with special interest in bats have formed an Inter-agency WNS Committee to collaborate and coordinate conservation, mitigation and surveillance efforts, and have produced ‘A National Plan to Manage White Nose Syndrome in Bats in Canada’.
Though we are rapidly losing millions of bats to white-nose syndrome, you can help! Mitigation efforts can be aided by understanding where bats are roosting in the summer, hibernating during the winter, and from early detection of the expansion of WNS to new areas across Canada. You can help by reporting all sightings of bats to your local wildlife department. In the summer, impacts on bat populations can be detected by identifying and monitoring maternity colonies each year. Volunteers can count the number of bats in a colony when they are emerging from their roosts at dusk to find food, or by installing a bat house. In the winter, location and population counts of bats in hibernacula are critical, however people are being asked to stay out of hibernation sites to reduce both disturbance to bats and the chance of spreading the fungus. If bats are exhibiting abnormal behaviour during the winter (i.e. flying during the day), this is a sign that they may be infected with WNS and should be reported for testing.
Please visit www.ccwhc.ca, whitenosesyndrome.org or batcon.org for more information about bats and white-nose syndrome. Help spread bat conservation awareness, and share what you learn about these incredible creatures with family and friends!
Article by Allysia Park