Conservationists sound alarm as deadly bat disease creeps toward B.C.

A Vancouver-based bat conservation group is sounding the alarm that a disease that has killed millions of bats in eastern North America could be headed to B.C.

The group is asking the public to report sightings of dead bats

The disease is characterized by the appearance of white on the bats' noses. (B.C. Community Bat Program)

A Vancouver-based bat conservation group is sounding the alarm that a disease that has killed millions of bats in eastern North America could be headed to B.C.

"White nose syndrome" is a deadly, fungal disease that originated in New York in 2006.

There's currently no known cure for the disease, which is characterized by the appearance of white on infected bats' noses.

Mandy Kellner, provincial coordinator for the B.C. community bat program, said that conservationists were shocked that it spread west so quickly.

"We thought we had a lot of time for managing the disease and monitoring and planning the recovery of affected species, but then in 2016 and 2017 infected bats were found near Seattle in Washington state, so less than 150 kilometres from Vancouver," she said.

Kellner said bats that become infected have a 95 to 99 per cent chance of dying.

"It's really severe. It has consequences for insect control, which has implications for the agricultural community and then for the forestry industry," she said.

Kellner said it's "good news" that no infected bats have been found in B.C., but noted her group is working with a very small sample size of bats.

The B.C. community bat program and the province are now asking that anyone who finds dead bats to contact them so that they may be collected for testing.

People can email info@bcbats.ca, call 1-855-922-2287, or fill out a form at bcbats.ca.

White nose syndrome poses no danger to humans.

With files from Natasha Frakes