Hey Islanders, have you seen a bat? Then call the bat phone!

Bats are emerging from hibernation to seek out summer roosting sites and researchers are once again asking P.E.I. residents to help monitor local populations.

Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative asking Islanders to report sightings of all bats, dead or alive

If you see a bat call 1-833-434-BATS (2287) to let researchers know, says Tessa McBurney. (Jordie Segers)

As spring weather settles on Prince Edward Island, bats are emerging from hibernation to seek out summer roosting sites and researchers are once again asking for help to monitor local populations.

"We have our toll-free bat hotline … to report bat sightings, which is really important," said Tessa McBurney, bat conservation technician with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC).

The bat hotline is based out of the CWHC Atlantic region, at the Atlantic Veterinary College, and is a collaborative project between the co-operative and the provincial governments of P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

McBurney said if anyone knows of bats roosting nearby, they can call the hotline and help monitor those bats over the season.

Dead bats

It's not just live bats the CWHC is interested in. McBurney said it's "crucial" that anyone who finds a dead bat submit it to the CWHC for testing — particularly for white-nose syndrome. 

White-nose syndrome is a disease that affects hibernating bats. It has decimated the bat population since it was first detected on the Island in 2013. The following year, McBurney said two native bat species were listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act.

"Right now the two bat species we have on the Island, the little brown myotis and the northern myotis, they are both listed endangered due to bat white-nose syndrome."

Bats are important to an agricultural province because they can help with pest control, says bat conservation technician Tessa McBurney. (CBC)

McBurney said unfortunately there are still bats submitted which show the disease, suggesting it's still active on P.E.I.

"The fungus that causes it … can live in the soil for a long time, so bats can still be affected by it," she said. "It is still spreading across Canada as well."

That is the major concern for people like McBurney, she said, but there are also other things impacting the bat population.

"Habitat loss, wind farms, pollution, these things can all affect bats as well."

Bats good for agriculture

McBurney said bats are important to an agricultural province because they can help with pest control.

"They eat lots of insects every night and that includes agricultural pests."

McBurney said there aren't many bat researchers on the east coast, which is why they need the public's help.

"We really need people to be our eyes on the ground."

If you see a bat, call 1-833-434-BATS (2287) to let researchers know bats are returning to the Island.

The hotline has been in place just over a year and has received 178 calls.

More P.E.I. news

With files from CBC News: Compass


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