List disease-prone bats as endangered, appeals pathologist

A wildlife pathologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College hopes the federal government will list three species of bats as endangered to help the animals combat the deadly disease, white-nose syndrome.

Scott McBurney hopes devastation of disease will spur feds to put 3 bat species on endangered list

White-nose syndrome is a rare fungal infection that attacks bats while they hibernate. (Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation/AP)

A wildlife pathologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College hopes the federal government will list three species of bats as endangered to help the animals combat the deadly disease, white-nose syndrome.              

Two of the species being considered for listing due to the fungal disease can be found on P.E.I — little brown bats and northern long-eared bats. The third species, not on the Island, is the tri-coloured bat.

The first request to Environment Canada came two years ago after an emergency review by a panel of independent Canadian scientists. A second call came last year after a formal review.

"My hope is, with the understanding of the devastation of bat white-nose syndrome, that there will be some additional impetus for the federal government to take a stand in a fairly timely manner so, that as this disease continues to progress, that we'll be able to have as much funding as well as recovery actions put in place as possible," said Scott McBurney with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at AVC.

McBurney said he hopes Environment Canada will make a decision next month, but he says there have been delays on other decisions involving possible endangered species.       

Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have already listed these bats provincially under their endangered species acts, but P.E.I. doesn't have endangered species legislation.

"Our department does have a provincial committee that is specific to species at risk," said provincial wildlife officials in a statement.

"No decisions have been made on bats or any other species at this time and there is no timeline in place as of now."

White-nose syndrome appeared first in a cave west of Albany, N.Y., in 2006. Since then it has spread north and was first detected in P.E.I. in 2011.

The disease, which was named for the white patches of fungus that appear on bats' muzzles and other body parts, causes infected bats to wake up early from their winter hibernation.

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