Calgary

How doing less yardwork can help keep Alberta's bat populations healthy

Pesticides and a lack of insects are contributing to the province's declining bat population.

With Halloween coming up, one spooky critter would appreciate it if you put away your rake

This little brown bat is nicknamed bookstore bat. He was saved by the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation after spending days at The Next Page bookstore in Calgary. (Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation )

An Alberta wildlife group is encouraging people to lay off the yardwork to help keep the province's bat populations healthy. 

Jessica Hay, a wildlife rehabilitator at the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation near Madden, Alta., northwest of Calgary, says leaving the leaves alone allows bats to prepare for a long winter. 

"Leaves can kind of help the insect population stay on the ground ... it gives bats the ability to be able to eat in the season when we're losing our insects," she said.

Alberta has two main bat types — tree and crevice bats — both of which are insectivores. Tree bats will migrate south for the winter, but crevice bats hibernate and need a large supply of insects in the fall.

Population declining 

Hay said there are a lot of bats in southern Alberta, but the population is on the decline. 

One big reason is the use of pesticides, which affect insect populations, and in turn bats. They can also be affected by certain illnesses, such as the fungal disease white-nose syndrome.

"And just in general, you know, human-related instances always kind of mess up their population," Hay said. 

Even for those who aren't bat lovers, keeping leaves on the ground in the fall is good for other kinds of animals including deer and moose, which eat leaves throughout the season. 

Leaves are also beneficial for some species of birds because they provide camouflage. 

"We have a lot of migratory bird species that are trying to move their way down south right now, and they're used to being able to hide in the trees, and with the leaves gone they don't really have that option as much," Hay said. 

Hay said putting up bat boxes can benefit the bats — and your neighbours.

"That will help encourage bat populations to come by, " she said.

"It just kind of gives them a safe space to sleep during the day and kind of encourages them in your neighborhood because they eat a ton of bugs, so it's great to have them in the area." 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that there are two main bat species in Alberta. That should have said bat types, as in those that migrate and those that stay and hibernate during winter. There are nine bat species in the province.
    Oct 25, 2021 11:38 AM MT

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