Nova Scotia

Cape Breton bat population appears to be holding steady

While bats in mainland Nova Scotia are facing extinction, populations in Cape Breton seem to be holding their own.

Last winter, natural resources department confirmed a few cases of white-nose syndrome on the Island

White-nose syndrome causes bats to develop white patches on their muzzles and other parts of their bodies during winter hibernation. (Submitted by Hugh Broders)

While bats in mainland Nova Scotia are facing extinction, populations in Cape Breton seem to be holding their own.

The Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) Cape Breton is monitoring hibernation sites again this winter. So far, there have been no signs of white-nose syndromea fungal infection that grows on bats' wings and muzzles and causes them to leave hibernation.

Jared Tomie is the environmental project manager with ACAP CB. He says equipment placed outside hibernation sites lets them know if any bats are active.

"We haven't had any sign of abnormal activity yet, so that's encouraging," he said.

"You would start to see them now, especially that we're into February. I think at some of the other sites on the mainland, they start to see some of these mortalities in January and around this time of year. This is really in the middle of our winter, so if they're to be doing anything abnormal or moving around, this would be the time to see them."

Tomie says the organization has two monitors out right now and is looking for another two locations as well.

Tomie cautions that because winter is not over and they're only monitoring two sites, it's too early to say whether Cape Breton bats are safe.

Last winter, the Department of Natural Resources did confirm a few cases of white-nose syndrome on the Island.

Mainland Nova Scotia

Hugh Broders is a biologist at St. Mary's University who specializes in bat studies. He says the news on mainland Nova Scotia is not good.

"Our best case scenario of the five sites that we monitored was a 97 per cent decline. And the worst case scenario was a 100 per cent decline relative to the pre white-nose syndrome numbers," he said.

Broders is hoping the bats that have survived may have a resistance to the fungus. Even so, he says, it would take decades for the population to recover.

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