About Us

The BatCaver program is a partnership between bat researchers and cavers in western Canada to gain more insight into the use of our caves and mines by bats, particularly in winter when they are most at risk of White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease of hibernating bats.  Little research has been undertaken regarding cave bat ecology in BC and Alberta.  The goal of this program is to expand our knowledge by placing remote bat detectors and climate loggers in caves and mines and taking fungal samples, with the assistance of the caving community.  Since the introduction of WNS into eastern North America, bat populations are being decimated while the fungus that causes the disease is spreading westward.  It is imperative that we learn as much as we can about the wintering ecology of our cave bats in BC and Alberta in order to develop mitigation or prevention strategies for the disease.  BC is host to the highest diversity of bats in Canada, with at least 16 species.  Of these, at least half are thought to be vulnerable to WNS due to their tendency to hibernate in caves and mines.  Two of our western bat species have recently been reclassified as endangered due to the high mortalities occurring in eastern Canadian hibernacula.


About Bats


Based on the fossil record, bats have existed for at least 53 million years.  Although small, they are very sophisticated creatures with life spans up to 40 years, making them the longest-lived mammals for their size. But they are also among the slowest reproducing mammals for their size, with most species and populations bearing only one young per year.  Bats of western Canada are all insectivores.  They feed on massive amounts of insects at night using their ultrasonic calls (mostly above the range of human hearing) to 'see' in the dark, much like sonar but more sophisticated.  They can catch their own weight in bugs in a single evening.  In the daytime, they will roost in rock crevices, trees and buildings where they will avoid daytime predators, and in the case of breeding females, select roosts that are sufficiently warm to raise young.  At night, they will hunt insects wherever they are found, including along lakes, streams, the ocean, cliffsides, on and around trees, streetlights (moths love streetlights!) and cave entrances.  At night, many bats will fly into caves to roost in the middle of the night, emerging for a final feed before dawn when they will retreat to their day roosts.  As the days get shorter, bats work overtime to feed and put on as much fat as possible before winter.  Many of our bat species will hibernate in caves and mines all winter while some of the larger bats migrate south.  When our bats hibernate, they are most vulnerable, as their dormant low energy state reduces their ability to fend off predators, and reduces physiological functions like immunity.


Where are hibernating bats found?


While research in western Canada is limited, we do know that long-term hibernating species tend to prefer quiet locations deep in caves and mines with high humidity and temperatures that approach but do not go below freezing.   The hibernation period in western Canada generally ranges from early October to late May.  The longest-duration hibernators are thought to be the Little Brown myotis, Long-Legged myotis, Northern Long-eared myotis, Western Long-eared myotis, Keen's Long-eared myotis, Yuma myotis and the Big Brown Bat, but hibernacula have yet to be located for other species.   Long duration hibernators and those using highest humidity caves will be most vulnerable to WNS.  Some western bat species hibernate for shorter periods as they are more adapted to feeding in the times when few insects are present and may prove resistant to WNS.  

Protect Bats

Bats are very sensitive to disturbance while hibernating. If you see hibernating bats, leave the area immediately.

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Clean Gear

Decontaminating your gear between caving trips can prevent the spread of WNS.



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Find Bats

Install a bat monitoring device in a cave or mine when you go caving.



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Updates

NEW HIBERNACULA SPECIES RECORDS

February 2019

Recent BatCaver genetic results have confirmed the presence of Little Brown Myotis in two new locations in Alberta. These discoveries add to the growing database of critical habitat identified by our program, which will ultimately help direct future conservation efforts of this federally endangered species. One of the sites, a cave the South-Western portion of the province, was first visited by our team in October 2018. During this time we deployed ultrasonic data loggers that record bat activity, paired with temperature and humidity loggers to gather information on the type of cave climate the bats are using at this site. These measurements will contribute to our understanding of patterns of bat activity at that site throughout the winter, and provide critical information about what habitat features are most frequently associated with winter bat use.



NEW EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS

May 2018

The BatCaver program has released a new video demonstrating one easy method of decontaminating caving equipment after exiting a cave or mine. Our BC coordinator walks the viewer step-by-step through one of his common decon procedures: immersing his caving equipment in 60 degree water for at least 20 minutes. The video is intended to help increase the likelihood that more people will follow recommended procedure by reducing the effort required to follow the prescribed protocols that reduce the risks of inadvertently transporting White-Nose Syndrome spores from one region to another.

White-Nose Syndrome has continued spreading further westward and was recently discovered infecting bats in Manitoba. As this highly transmissible and fatal disease continues to spread westward, adherence to proper decontamination protocol is increasingly important, especially among anyone who may enter multiple caves or mines in a wide geographic range.

Additional decontamination procedures can be found under the decontamination protocol link on the BatCaver Resources page.


Video

White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease that has caused up to 100% bat mortality in cave hibernacula in Eastern Canada and United States. The longer the West can remain WNS-free, the more time there is to develop critical conservation strategies for vulnerable bat species.

WNS AND WESTERN CANADA

DECONTAMINATION PROTOCOLS FOR VISITING BAT HIBERNACULA

Watch this video in French.

© 2018-2019 Wildlife Conservation Society