Bat exhibit in Kelowna, B.C. highlights dangers of deadly fungal disease – Okanagan

While bats are difficult to see during the daytime, the Regional District of Central Okanagan is shedding some light on these nocturnal creatures through an educational exhibit.

From now until mid-July, this free event is a chance for the public to learn a little about the 14 different bat species that call the Okanagan home.

“It’s pretty cool to come to an exhibit like this — walk around and read the displays and learn more,” described RDCO interpreter, Rose Maunder.

“You can see the skeletons, the sizes, and the shapes of these special animals and learn some really cool facts.”

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According to Maunder, bats play a critical role in the Okanagan ecosystem, especially when it comes to pest control in the summer months.

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“Bats love mosquitos, so if you’re not a big fan of mosquitos, then you should really love bats,” expressed Maunder.

“There are certain areas where they are more common to be seen, for example over in Peachland, but we also know that John’s Family Nature Conservancy Region Park, that’s a roosting site for some of our bat population.

A roosting site refers to the place where bats sleep during the day or hibernate during the colder months. In B.C., bats tend to roost between rocks, hollow trees, caves, tunnels and bridges.

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However, these essential night flyers are facing a threat.  A certain fungal disease that has wiped out over 16 million bats – the white nose syndrome – first recognized back in 2006 – has some biologists concerned.  They worry it’s creeping closer to B.C., after being detected in Washington state and Alberta.

“While they’re roosting in the wintertime, they get a bit of a fungus on their nose, and they wake up to try and get rid of this issue,” explains Maunder.

“What happens is when they wake up, they actually lose a lot of their fat reserves that they’re usually needing to get through the winter months and unfortunately that kills them.”

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The deadly disease does not have an impact on humans, but the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says it does have the potential to kill up to 100% of bats in a colony during hibernation.

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The Okanagan Community Bat Program is asking for the public’s help to detect and prevent the spread of this disease. Residents are asked to report any bat activity they see during winter and any sick or dead bats they find before May 31.

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