Alberta Community Bat Program wants to conserve province's 'little flying grizzly bears'

The coordinator of the Alberta Community Bat Program would say they are the latter because they reproduce ‘very slowly’ and one of the species living in the province is endangered.

Colonies need protection because they reproduce ‘very slowly,’ says group coordinator

The Alberta Community Bat Program is setting out to educate and conserve the province's 9 bat species. (iStock)

A group of Albertans has come together to protect creatures of the night.

Cory Olson, the co-ordinator for the Alberta Community Bat Program, says many people consider bats to be mice with wings — but says in many ways, they're more like 'little flying grizzly bears.'

"They reproduce very slowly, they live very long lives and most only raise one pup per year and usually not until their second or third year," said Olson, who studied bat ecology at the University of Calgary.

Endangered little brown bat

Olson and a group of bat enthusiasts are setting out to educate Albertans about the province's nine bat species — one of which is endangered in Canada.

The little brown bat, which often roosts in buildings on private land, is at risk because of the spread of white-nose syndrome.

The disease, which causes white patches to grow on bats' noses and wings, has killed more than six million bats in 28 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces of eastern North America since it was first discovered in eastern New York in the winter of 2006/2007.

White nose syndrome is fatal to most of the bats exposed to it. (Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation/AP)

Build a bat box

Olson said one way Albertans can help conserve the province's bat population is to build a bat box on their property.

Multiple-chambered bat boxes can hold over 200 bats. (Community Bat Programs of BC)

"Naturally, bats would roost in rock crevices or old decaying trees … these are trees that are really highly decayed, large diameter trees [and] by they time they become suitable for bats they are generally cut down for safety reasons."

If a bat takes up residence anywhere on your property, the group asks that you monitor their behaviour and report back to them.

"We currently have almost no information on a lot of the habitats that bat are using for roosting, so we don't really have a good grasp on the types of buildings bats are using."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener