Creston Valley citizen scientists wanted for annual Kootenay bat count

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Volunteers counting bats as they emerge from a roost site at sunset.

Volunteers counting bats as they emerge from a roost site at sunset.

Do you want to become a citizen scientist contributing valuable data towards conservation of bats in B.C.? The Kootenay Community Bat Project (KCBP) is seeking volunteers for the annual bat count. This citizen-science initiative encourages residents to count bats at roost sites to provide valuable information on bat populations.

“This event is a wonderful opportunity for residents who care about wildlife to be involved in collecting important scientific information” says KCBP co-ordinating biologist Juliet Craig. “You don’t need any special skills and kids can be involved.”

The annual bat count is being promoted by the KCBP in partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Environment to collect baseline data on bat populations before the devastating white nose syndrome enters the province.

“White nose syndrome is decimating bat populations in eastern North America,” says Purnima Govindarajulu, with the Ministry of Environment. “We are lucky that this disease is not yet in B.C., but it is predicted to arrive here within ten years. Monitoring bat populations is essential for detecting sudden declines associated with white nose syndrome caused mortality.”

Residents 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 can video the emergence or use a hand tally counter to count the bats. They record the final count along with some basic information on weather conditions. Ideally, two counts are done between June 1 and 21 before pups are born, and two more between July 21 and Aug. 15 when pups are flying with their mothers.

“We know relatively little about bats in this region, including basic information on population numbers,” says Craig. “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 do our best to match them to a roost site nearby.”

Funded by the Columbia Basin Trust and with support of the BC Conservation Foundation, the KCBP also provides educational programs and information for landowners dealing with bat issues on their property. To download the annual bat count instructions and data forms, to register for the bat count or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit www.kootenaybats.com or call 1-855-9BC-BATS ext. 14.

—KOOTENAY COMMUNITY BAT PROJECT