B.C. bats do not carry COVID-19: Community program expert

This spotted bat, native to western North America can be found nesting in cliffs above Williams Lake and Bull Canyon in the Chilcotin. It is a hibernating insect-eating bat that may be at risk as the disease white-nose syndrome moves westward. (Paul Cryan, U.S. Geological Survey photo)This spotted bat, native to western North America can be found nesting in cliffs above Williams Lake and Bull Canyon in the Chilcotin. It is a hibernating insect-eating bat that may be at risk as the disease white-nose syndrome moves westward. (Paul Cryan, U.S. Geological Survey photo)
Townsend’s Big-eared Bat is one of the species counted during the BC Annual Bat Count and is found in the Cariboo as far north as Williams Lake (Aimee Mitchell photo)Townsend’s Big-eared Bat is one of the species counted during the BC Annual Bat Count and is found in the Cariboo as far north as Williams Lake (Aimee Mitchell photo)
Bats in bat house. (Verena Reznicek photo)Bats in bat house. (Verena Reznicek photo)
Bats emerge form a roost site at dusk. (Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project photo)Bats emerge form a roost site at dusk. (Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project photo)
Map of bat count sites across B.C. (BC Community Bat Program)Map of bat count sites across B.C. (BC Community Bat Program)

B.C. bats do not have or spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19, said Bill Gilroy with the BC Community Bat Program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a negative spotlight on bats, due to concerns over B.C. bats carrying the virus,” said Gilroy, who became the Cariboo-Chilcotin-Central Coast program co-ordinator this spring.

“Misinformation such as this can lead to unfounded fear and persecution of bats.”

Gilroy told Black Press Media he thinks the myth about bats causing the virus emerged early on during the pandemic based on information that was never clear from people wanting to place the blame on bats in China.

“Certainly here in B.C., it is absolutely unfounded,” he added. “There is no association at all with COVID-19 and bats. This information has been provided by health authorities to the B.C. Community Bats Program and we are responsibly relaying the information to the public.”

He invited people to support bats by participating in the annual B.C. bat count presently underway.

READ MORE: Public asked to help in reporting bat activity

For people who already have bat houses on their properties that are occupied, they are urged to visit the BC Community Bat Program website and register the bat house.

From the website residents can download forms that are used all over B.C. for the bat counts that follow specific protocol so everything is done in the same way to get valid and accurate information.

“We also work with volunteers who don’t have access to bat houses who might be interested in coming out and doing a bat count with us at one of the larger sites where we are monitoring bats.”

Gilroy and some volunteers have been doing bat counts this week and one night recently counted approximately 500 at one site and 250 at another site.

“It really is interesting,” Gilroy said.

“The larger colonies I just talked about are maternity colonies so these are only mothers and their young. The males roost separately. This is the time when the mothers are starting to have their babies.”

Most of the bats in the Cariboo Chilcotin are Little Brown Myotis, which are endangered in Canada.

He said bats are slow producers and only have one baby a year.

Little Brown Myotis bats have been known to live 30 or more years.

A little known fact is that the rarest bat in North America hangs out in cliffs above Williams Lake and Bull Canyon west in the Chilcotin.

“Those cliffs provide important habitat for Spotted Bats,” Gilroy explained. “They are spectacular. They have jet black fur, prominent white spots on their bodies and their ears are absolutely enormous. Their ears are almost as long as their body.”

The Spotted Bats nest singularly in crevices and cracks in the cliffs.

He has not seen one himself, but has talked to people that have, including Cathy Koot who was the Cariboo Chilcotin Central Coast program co-ordinator before him.

“We all know that bats used echo location to find their way around and find food,” Gilroy noted. “In most bats we cannot hear their echo location, but in these spotted bats we can. They are a unique and really beautiful bat.”

Williams Lake is at the northern limit of the Spotted Bat range in B.C.

Bat counts are best done at the exact time of sunset for one hour when it is 12C or warmer, not raining and during low wind speeds.

Finding places where bats are exiting structures, often old buildings on rural sites is the most ideal.

It is encouraging to see many homeowners and people in the ranching community being so enthusiastic about embracing bats and willing to put bat houses on their properties, he added.

“The work they do and the interest they have really does help us learn more about bats in B.C.”

Ideally, one to two counts are done between June 1 and 21 before bat pups are born, and one to two more counts between July 11 and Aug. 5 when pups are flying.

In 2019, the Annual Bat Count collected baseline data on bat populations at 337 sites across the province, and hopes to monitor these sites and more for 2020.

Gilroy said the count data helps bat biologists understand bat distribution and normal variation in colony sizes before bats face impacts from a devastating bat disease called White-nose Syndrome.

White-nose syndrome is an introduced fungal disease, fatal for bats but not for other animals or humans. Not yet identified in B.C., the disease continues to spread in Washington State, less than 200 kilometres from the Canadian border.

Results from the bat count may help prioritize areas in B.C. for research into treatment options and recovery actions.

Gilroy moved to Williams Lake in 2013 and worked as a school principal and teacher until he retired. For the last year and a half he has been working as the education co-ordinator for the Scout Island Nature Centre.

Anyone wanting to find out more about bat counts or white-nose syndrome, to report a dead bat, or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, should visit www.bcbats.ca or call 1-855-922-2287, extension 22 or e-mail cariboo@bcbats.ca.

READ MORE: Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Wildlife

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. (File photo)
UPDATE: 2 cougars killed following attack in Harrison Mills

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

....
Abbotsford graphic designer pitches Flyers rebrand for AHL team

Alex Svarez suggests new affiliate team turns back the clock and brings back Flyers moniker

Mike Haire, a former vice-principal at W. A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford, began court proceedings on Monday, May 3 in New Westminster for two child pornography offences.
Trial paused for former Abbotsford vice-principal charged with child porn

Judge reserves decision on admissibility of evidence against Mike Haire

Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen is now under investigation from the Vancouver Police Department following sexual misconduct allegations. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Vancouver police investigating sexual misconduct claims against Canucks’ Jake Virtanen

Abbotsford native remains on leave with the Vancouver Canucks following recent allegations

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Meghan Gilley, a 35-year-old emergency room doctor and new mom was vaccinated from COVID-19 in January, while she was pregnant. She’s encouraging others to do the same. (Submitted)
‘The best decision’: B.C. mom encourages other pregnant women to get COVID-19 shot

Meghan Gilley, 35, delivered a healthy baby after being vaccinated against the virus while pregnant

Former Vernon Panthers football standout Ben Hladik of the UBC Thunderbirds (top, in a game against the Manitoba Bisons, <ins>making one of his 38 Canada West solo tackles in 2019</ins>), was chosen in Tuesday’s 2021 Canadian Football League draft. (Rich Lam - UBC Thunderbirds photo)
B.C. Lions call on Vernon standout in CFL draft

Canadian Football League club selects former VSS Panthers star Ben Hladik in third round of league draft

Most Read