Federal government targets bats

NANAIMO – Regional District of Nanaimo asked to help track colonies threatened with disease and habitat loss.

With bats across Canada on the federal government’s endangered list, Howard Houle, Regional District of Nanaimo director for Gabriola Island, is hoping to identify species at Coats Marsh.

The Government of Canada made a 60-day call for public input on a recovery strategy proposal in January and recently corresponded with the regional district seeking further input regarding critical habitat.

Houle said the government contacted the regional district because the species has limited breeding areas and it wants to track things like diseases. The government said threats include habitat loss, human disturbance of colonies in buildings and hibernating bats in caves, and white-nose syndrome, which causes white fungal growth on bats’ faces leading to death.

A centuries-old caretaker’s cabin at the marsh has a bat colony and Houle hopes to protect it and increase habitat. It’s not known what the species is.

“Once it’s identified by [the Canadian government], they’ll come and do a species identification as well, and then with that, there are certain species … that are endangered, and this may be one of them, and if it is, then it’s a good case to protect them,” said Houle.

Houle said staff will be in contact with the federal government and have discussions and after the species is assessed, a report from staff will be released.

Houle estimates building of bat houses could be among the remedies, as well as maintaining the cabin structure, as the bats are living in the roof, and fencing the area off from the public.

In an e-mail, Simon Rivet, spokesman for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said there are 16 confirmed species of bats in B.C. and only little brown myotis and northern myotis are species known to be prone to high mortality from the disease.

There have been no confirmed cases of white-nose in B.C., but an incidence in Seattle, Wash., in March is cause for concern, Rivet said.

“Information provided through the 60-day public comment period is being used to revise the recovery strategy which we anticipate posting on the [Species at Risk Act] Public Registry as final in the very near future,” said Rivet.

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