Navigating Bats in Your Community

Posted August 7, 2020 by Vindi Sekhon

Wildlife Rescue Support Centre has been busy answering phone calls and coordinating the increased amounts of bat appearances during the day in the last 3 months. Although the majority of the 208 calls are inquiries from callers interested in learning about bat safety and protocol, Wildlife Rescue has seen a surge in the number of bats who need supportive care and treatment.

Many of the callers were taking the right COVID-19 precautions and following bat-safety protocol, something that is very important to do when you see a bat. In 2019, Wildlife Rescue provided care to 45 bats and compared to this year, where we have successfully rehabilitated and released 10 bats while working with regional biologists, it is easy to tell the numbers are going up.

Wildlife Rescue staff suspect the bats are probably hunting in places that are hit by the sun or near water sources (including pools), which they need since they drink a lot of water while hunting. This became evident after a health check showed signs of fleas and mites, which tend to come out during the day. The most common issue we see is dehydration due to baking in the sun all day instead of roosting in their usual shaded hideaway. If they leave at night to forage, they can often self remedy this issue by returning to their usual schedule – however, severe dehydration can lead to a lack of energy – making flying to catch food difficult.

It is important to understand the importance of bats in our communities and learn about protective measures to keep us and our bat friends safe. Do not touch or come in contact with a bat, observe from afar and safe location, and if you suspect an issue please call our support centre – we will help assess the situation and bring the bat into our care if needed.

Bats are the only true flying mammals in the world, and as such can be found in pretty much every region on Earth, save the Arctic and Antarctic. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind and use their eyesight and echolocation to navigate and hunt for food in the dark of night. While some bats mainly eat insects, (which is crucial in keeping insects and pests away from crops and farms) other bats will also eat fruit, pollen, and nectar. These night-flyers are quite the hunters – it has been estimated that a hungry bat can devour up to 3,000 insects in one night! Not only does this reduce the need for farmers to use pesticides, but it also helps manage the overpopulation of certain insect groups (including mosquitoes).

Bats that eat pollen and nectar also play a key role in the pollination of fruits and flowers around the world. Because they are only active at night, bats are often able to pollinate certain pale-coloured plants that may have been overlooked by the daytime-active birds and insects. Fruit-eating bats are also invaluable for their role in spreading the seeds of trees and other plants during flight. These expert fliers can cover up to 250 miles in a single night and carry and disperse seeds throughout a vast area by digesting and then defecating the seeds. Because of this, bats have been instrumental in reforesting areas that have been cleared of trees. It is often said that bats are one of the most valuable natural indicators of the health of our environment: bats will flourish when an ecosystem is healthy and stable!

Of the 16 known bat species native to British Columbia, over half of them are species at risk (vulnerable or threatened of becoming extinct). Given the extremely important role bats play in controlling many of our insect populations and spreading seeds in various ecosystems (from wetlands to forests), it is vital that we better understand bats and assist them in any way we can. It is estimated that only 0.5% of bats in BC carry rabies, and although caution should be taken when in the proximity of a bat, they are not to be feared. Wildlife Rescue Association is dedicated to maintaining a balance in our ecosystem and improving the welfare of animals, which includes bats in the region that have been injured and need care.

We thank you for your continued support in helping us care for these guardians of the night!

Wildlife Rescue Support Centre has been busy answering an increased volume of calls this summer from curious finders noticing bats appearing during the day. Although the majority of calls the finder is interested in learning about bat safety and protocol, Wildlife Rescue has seen a small surge in the number of bats who need supportive care and treatment.

Support bats in your community today!

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