White Nose Syndrome threatens B.C.'s bat populations, biologist says
The White Nose Syndrome, caused by fungus, can kill 99 or even 100 percent of bats in an area
A biologist is worried B.C. bats could be at risk of extinction because the deadly fungus White Nose Syndrome has been detected in Washington State.
To get a better understanding of the situation, Cori Lausen, with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada, is teaming up with cave explorers — spelunkers — to see if the fungus has spread to remote bat populations in this province.
"We have nothing confirmed from B.C., but on the other hand, we had a very warm spring, and bats emerged long before we actually knew White Nose was in the Seattle area," Lausen told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.
"If it is here, we assume that there is a good chance it's along our coastline."
- Bat with white nose syndrome detected near Seattle as disease inches towards B.C.
- 1st bat with white-nose syndrome in West an 'alarming development'
- Bats nearly wiped out by white-nose syndrome in Eastern Canada
White Nose Syndrome causes white patches to grow on bats' noses and wings. It has killed more than six million bats in 28 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces since it was first discovered in eastern New York in the winter of 2006-2007.
The disease was thought to be confined to eastern North America, but hikers found a sick little brown bat about 48 kilometres west of Seattle in March.
Lausen says if the disease comes to B.C., "It's probably going to be devastating."
"At this point we can only go based on what we've seen on the eastern part of the continent," she said.
"We've got double the number of species that it could potentially affect, and what we've seen so far is … some of the places have been 99, 100 per cent kill rate when it gets into a hibernaculum where bats overwinter."
She says in addition to the ecological impact of major bat die-offs, there could be economic impacts to forestry and agriculture, as bats are the primary check on populations of insects at night — especially moths.
With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast
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