Volunteers can stand to wait for bats to emerge, but pulling up a chair is okay, too. (J. Craig)

Calling citizen scientists: volunteers needed for BC Bat Counts

Group wants baseline numbers before white nose syndrome hits the province

  • May. 20, 2018 6:00 a.m.

SIDNEY — Calling all wildlife enthusiasts: the Habitat Acquisition Trust needs bat counters. The Annual Bat Count is coming up, and it could even be relaxing, says conservation specialist Paige Erickson-McGee.

“No special skills are needed, you can be any age, and you can relax in a deck chair while counting,” said Erickson-McGee in a press release.

The Annual Bat Count begins June 1 and will collect baseline data on bat populations before White Nose Syndrome affects bats in the province. According to Mandy Kellner, provincial co-ordinator with the BC Community Bat Program, the disease was spotted east of Seattle in March 2016 and has spread within Washington State, and it has “greatly increased” their urgency to understand bat populations in B.C.

“We need the public’s help to census local bat populations — we never know when it is our last year to obtain population estimates before White Nose Syndrome causes widespread declines…”

Volunteers wait outside a known roost site, such as a bat-house, barn, bridge or attic, and count bats as they fly out at twilight. They record the final number along with basic information on weather conditions. Ideally, 1 – 2 counts are done between June 1 and 21 before pups are born, and 1 – 2 more between July 11 and August 5 when pups are flying.

“We know relatively little about bats on Vancouver Island, including basic information on population numbers,” says Erickson-McGee. “This information will be extremely valuable, particularly if it is collected annually. If people want to get involved but don’t have a roost site on their property, we will try to match them with a roost site nearby.”

To participate in the count program on Southern Vancouver Island, contact HAT’s Bat Coordinator at bat@hat.bc.ca or phone the HAT office 250-995-2428.

— with files from the Habitat Acquisition Trust

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