Hitchhiking bats could be spreading white nose syndrome

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative is trying to prevent bats from getting a free ride this summer.

Large vehicles should be checked for bats before travel, says cooperative

Roosting bats can usually be moved fairly easily. (Submitted by Jordi Segers, Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative)

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative is trying to prevent bats from getting a free ride this summer.

It's asking everyone from truckers to tourists to help prevent the spread of white nose syndrome — a highly contagious disease that only affects bats — by checking for the nocturnal creatures before they head out on the road.

Jordi Segers, the national white-nose syndrome program co-ordinator for the cooperative, says bats usually fly about 250 kilometres in a season. But as weather warms up, people also start moving around more and could unknowingly be giving bats a ride along the way.

"If they choose a roosting spot that is under your umbrella, which they absolutely love, or in the awnings of your camper, or a truck leaves its door open and a bat flies in, the risk there is that this bat infects other local bats with this fungus and the bat would have travelled much further than it would naturally."

Take care moving bats

In addition to the potential spread of white-nose syndrome, bats that are moved out of their natural range may not survive because of injury, dehydration and starvation. Another danger is that they may not find safe roost sites or places to hibernate.

Segers said if you do spot a bat, you can remove it by scooping it up gently with thick gloves, or by nudging it with a broomstick.

Or, if doing it yourself is not an option, you can call the local provincial or park conservation authorities to help.

According to the CWHC, white nose syndrome has killed millions of bats since 2006.

There is no known treatment or cure for sick bats.

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With files from Malcolm Campbell