B.C. researchers are calling on the public to help monitor whether the deadly bat fungal disease known as white nose syndrome (WNS) has moved into the province yet.

The B.C. Community Bat Program wants people to report dead bats or sightings of bats flying during the winter when they would normally be hibernating — a typical first sign of the syndrome

"Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing for WNS and would provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in B.C," said Mandy Kellner, provincial coordinator with the program.

Officials caution a dead bat should never be handled with bare hands, nor should pets be exposed to it, due to the risk of contracting rabies

The disease has devastated bat populations in eastern North America and its presence was confirmed in Washington state in 2016 and 2017. It has yet to be detected in B.C., but many feel it is just a matter of time.

"We knew this deadly fungus was moving westward across North America but we thought we had many years to prepare," said Kellner. 

The disease does not affect humans but has a near 100-per-cent mortality for some species of bats.

Those with information to report can contact the Community Bat program at 1-855-922-2287 ext 24, or by email at info@bcbats.ca.