We have 8 native species of bats in Ontario. They are divided in two groups. Cave dwelling bats overwinter here and tree dwelling bats migrate south for the winter. As of January of this year all species of bats are considered SARO species (Species at Risk Ontario).
All though the normal factors such as habitat loss are part of what has caused a decline in the number of bats, there are two major issues that are exacerbating the problem; Fungus and Turbines.
Wind TurbinesIt is a proven fact that wind turbines kill bats. Nobody can deny this. The research has been done. Bats are very delicate creatures and all they have to do is fly near a wind turbine. The change in air pressure causes their lungs to literally explode.
50% of the bats killed by wind turbines die this way and the other 50% get hit by the spinning blades. Bat mortality peaks during the middle of summer and weather patterns do play a role in it.
I read a statistic somewhere (not sure how accurate it is) that each wind turbine kills on average 1 bird and two bats every day.
The group of bats most effected by the wind turbines are unfortunately the most endangered group of bats n.l the tree dwelling bats.
You can imagine with 100 new wind turbines being build in my back yard I am pretty concerned about this.
FungusThe other major cause of premature deaths in bats is a fungus recently accidentally brought over from Europe. It is referred to as White Nose Bat Syndrome (WNS). It's a funny name, but the affected bats have a white powdery looking residue around their nose and hence the name.
The fungus it self is not deadly to bats, but it disturbs them during hibernation. The problem is that when bats wake up during hibernation they can not find food or water. They have been running on their reserves all winter and do not have enough energy to stay warm, so they die.
Bats can overcome the fungus if they get in the hands of an experienced wildlife rehabilitator asap.
How you can help and what you need to knowSo the advice is easy. Do not kill bats, however there is one issue I have not talked about yet. Bats can carry rabies. Rabies also causes bats to wake up during hibernation.
When in close proximity to bats extreme cation has to be used. Bats have very tiny teeth and if you get bitten by a bat you will barely notice, so in cause of doubt the bat needs to be send for rabies testing.
|MNR picture (unfortunately no gloves are worn in the picture)|
When you come across a bat in need of help because it is injured or awake when it should be hibernating never touch it with your bare hands. The best way to confine a bat is to scoop it up with a lid and scoop it in a container (with air holes of course) and get in touch with a wildlife rehab facility (authorized for bats) for further instructions.
The best place to find a wildlife facility is:
List of MNR Authorized Wildlife Custodians
Let's all work together and help us help bats. Imagine how many more mosquito's we would have around without bats...
For more bat information please check out our Bat Page