'Not very common': Endangered Little Brown Bats found on Sask. grasslands

Bat biologist Joe Poissant found endangered Little Brown Bats living at Saskatchewan's Old Man on His Back conservation area.

Little Brown Bats usually live in tree cavities or buildings

Little Brown Bats, pictured above, have been found in Saskatchewan's Old Man on His Back conservation area. (Getty Images)

Most people think of bison and cattle roaming along the plains when they think of grasslands, not bats.

But that's just what a bat biologist recently found in southwestern Saskatchewan — an endangered Little Brown Bat. 

Last summer, Joe Poissant, who works for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, found several of the critters at Saskatchewan's Old Man on His Back conservation area.

Since then, the creatures have been declared endangered and Poissant says it's rare for them to live on the prairies.

He says they usually live in larger colonies in tree cavities or buildings.

"In the area of Old Man on His Back, there aren't a lot of either of those things," he said.

"That's why it was kind of interesting to find them."

Joe Poissant says Old Man On His Back could be acting as a refuge for bats from White-Nose Syndrome. (Mary-Anne Collis)

He found the bats by using a recording device used to track bats. The device records bat calls and displays them graphically after the data is downloaded.

Poissant believes the bats may have migrated into the area from the river valleys, which have trees.

He says it's important to track these bats because they are "experiencing some problems right now in North America" due to an emerging disease in hibernating bats called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). 

White-nose syndrome is a fungus which attacks the bare skin of bats, causing their body temperature to rise during hibernation. In the process, they use up fat reserves and end up starving before spring arrives.

"Understanding where these bats exist before white-nose comes to the area is important for conservation efforts and to understand how they're moving around on the landscape," he said.

White-Nose Syndrome is a fungus that attacks bare skin of bats, causing their body temperature to rise while hibernation. In the process, they use up fat reserves and often starve before spring arrives. (AP Photo/New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ryan von Linden)

Despite the possibility of WNS arriving in Saskatchewan, Poissant says Old Man on His Back could be acting as a refuge for the bats. 

"In Saskatchewan to this point, we've had no ill effects," he said.

"Hopefully it means that we'll have stable populations over the long term."

Old Man on His Back conservation area is located about 153 kilometres southwest of Swift Current.

With filed from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition