To the bat-house! Backyard boxes could aid endangered species

The Canadian Wildlife Federation wants people to build bat houses to help save endangered species in the area.

Certain bat species in Ontario at risk of extinction

The federation is asking Ontarians to install bat houses in their yards. (Radio-Canada)

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is launching a project to save endangered bats — and they want your help. 

With funding from Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the federation is aiming to install 50 bat houses in the next year.

Part of the initiative includes getting people involved in setting up small shelters, or bat houses, for the furry flyers. 

They'll also be tracking the numbers of different species of bats in Ontario, paying particular attention to several at-risk species.

Individuals can assist with the program by building their own bat houses in backyards, said James Pagé, an at-risk species specialist with the federation.

Once you've constructed a dark box for them, Pagé said there are extra features you can add to attract the bats:

  • Fit the box with wooden ribs on the outside to help the bats keep their grip.
  • Leave the bottom open to help them exit easily, and also keep the box clean of debris.
  • Attach the house to the south side of a post to maximize sunlight and warmth.
  • Try to avoid fixing it to a tree, as the branches can confuse a bat's echolocation.
  • Position the box between three and four-and-a-half metres in the air to match their flight patterns.
Installing the houses on posts helps orient the bats, as tree branches confuse their echolocation. (Radio-Canada)

White-nose syndrome, a fungal infection that affects bats, has killed millions of the animals in North America in the last decade, according to Pagé.

"This fungus is transmitted from one bat to another. When they all return to the same place to hibernate, they share the fungus. It infects all species in the cave," he said.

Pesticides also contribute to the declining numbers of bats. The bats struggle to reproduce, as they only give birth to one or two babies at a time.

Education to battle fear of bats

The project is supposed to help save the bats, while also educating the public about an animal with a typically negative connotation.

Pagé said he wants to dispel the myths that bats are more likely to carry rabies, or that they bite humans.

In fact, bats eat insects like mosquitos and are no more rabies-prone than squirrels, he added.

"People are afraid sometimes of things they do not know. These are not [animals] that are often seen in the day."

Though often unseen, they play a large part in the local ecosystem.

"Every bat counts," he said.

With files from Radio-Canada