The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources is running its so-called bat hotline for a second year in an attempt to track a deadly disease in the mammals.

The province started asking the public to report bat sightings last year in an effort to track their health against white-nose syndrome, a fatal infection caused by a fungus.  has caused bat populations to rapidly decline.

White-nose syndrome causes bats to wake frequently during winter hibernation and with limited food available, the bats die from starvation and hypothermia.

According to the department, the disease has killed millions of bats throughout northeastern North America in just a few years.


New Brunswick researchers are also examining bats to track the spread of white-nose syndrome across the province. (CBC)

Brad Toms, a wildlife biologist with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute which runs the hotline, said white-nose syndrome has not yet shown up in Cape Breton and some parts of mainland Nova Scotia.

"It has moved at a rate of around 180 kilometres a year since it started in New York in 2006," he said.

"So you might say it might be inevitable, it might not. We couldn't say for sure. It seems like it might keep moving."

Toms said the Department of Natural Resources wants people to call to report sightings of live bats and to send dead ones to the institute for testing.

There were more than 1,000 calls to the hotline last year and Toms said it's a good way to track bat populations.

"They'll also tell us where we have previously had unknown populations of bats," he explains.

"Definitely several people have called in and said, 'I have this barn with hundreds of bats' and that can be really important maternal colonies where females are breeding together."

The number for the bat hotline is 1-866-727-3447 or information could be sent to the project's website.