Dropping bat population poses concern for P.E.I. farmers
White Nose Syndrome wipes out bat populations in North America
Farmers in P.E.I. are concerned about bat populations being wiped out by White Nose Syndrome, a deadly fungus that can grow on bats while they hibernate.
The disease is decimating bat populations in North America.
Allysia Park is the Canadian National White-nose Syndrome Coordinator with the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.
Where she works, bat autopsies are an almost daily occurrence.
“Some places have seen up to anywhere between 90 and 99 per cent population declines,’ she said.
P.E.I. does not have data on exactly how many bats are on the island or have died due to White Nose Syndrome.
“Everywhere that White nose syndrome occurs in North America, we have experienced similar levels of mortality,” said Scott McBurney, a wildlife pathologist. “So I have nothing in P.E.I. to suggest it would be any different here.”
The disease, once established, is incurable and easily transmitted.
“There's nothing we can do to help them,” said Parks. “We can't clear the fungus out of the caves or where bats are hibernating so we can't stop the fungus from growing on the bats.”
Farmers rely on bats to feed on insects that would otherwise wreak havoc on crops. Without them, McBurney said farmers will look for alternative ways to keep insect populations in check.
“Which means perhaps using more pesticides,” he said. “To control the increased numbers of these individuals, because the bats aren't eating them.”
Phil Ferraro of the P.E.I. farm Centre said island farmers don't want to look to more pesticides. But he also knows the importance of bats when it comes to getting rid of pests.
He said in a single night a bat can eat up to 10 grams of insects.
Currently the Atlantic Veterinary College is measuring when and where bats are dying so data can be maintained in the future.