The BC Bat Count kicks off June 1. (J. Saremba photo)

White Rock, Surrey, Delta of particular interest in B.C.’s summer bat count

Biologist advises people to stay away from bats, as humans could spread COVID-19 to bat population

With the annual BC Bat Count kicking off next week, experts are advising people to stay two metres away from bat colonies, in part because of concerns that humans could transmit COVID-19 into the North American bat population.

Community Bat Programs of BC regional co-ordinator Danielle Dagenais contacted Peace Arch News last week to promote the annual count and clear up some misinformation about bats that has been spreading as fast as the virus.

What experts do know is that the COVID-19 virus is not found in the North American bat population, and they want to keep it that way.

“One thing that I’m sending out to people that I know have roosts, is I’m asking them to stay two metres away from their roof where the bats are coming out because we do not want COVID spilling into the bat population,” she said.

“Again, we don’t know if we can transfer it to bats. But we suspect that, yes, we can transfer it to bats – but we don’t know. There’s lots of tests being done.”

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

Dagenais said while it is possible, currently it’s only speculation that the novel coronavirus originated in bats.

“There’s a big difference between what we know and what we suspect. And it’s just because that there are viruses that bats carry that are very, very similar to SARS-CoV-2 virus,” said Dagenais, who is a bat biologist. “It has not been confirmed, to this day, that it has been passed on from a bat. There are other animals that it could have come from.”

The spread of the virus has led to the unfair prosecution of bats without trial, and prior to COVID-19 the animal had a bad rap for carrying other diseases, such as rabies, she said.

“Misinformation such as this can lead to unfounded fear.”

Dagenais said that, in reality, bats are an essential part of the environment. They consume thousands of insects each night and are critical for maintaining healthy ecosystems.

However, some North American species – including the now-endangered little brown myotis – are in trouble.

The fungal disease white-nose syndrome is responsible for the death of millions of bats across eastern North America, and in 2016 the virus was found in Washington State.

SEE ALSO: B.C. brings funding for bat research in advance of devastating fungal disease

There has not yet been a confirmed case of the fungus in British Columbia, and that’s why the counts are a useful tool for bat biologists to understand bat distribution and normal variation in colony sizes before B.C. bats are impacted by the virus.

Since the disease has been confirmed in Washington, bat colonies along the U.S. border are of particular interest to biologists.

“Surrey, White Rock and Delta areas are critical (areas) that we know where our roosts are,” Dagenais said, adding that the fungus has been known to spread over a distance of up to 200-kilometres in one year.

“The more we know about sites in the Lower Mainland, the more research we can do and try to be proactive before it gets into B.C.”

The bat counting season runs from June 1 to Aug. 5. The BC Community Bat Program is aware of more than 40 colonies in buildings and 50 bat boxes in Metro Vancouver.

The society is asking homeowners with bat colonies to participate in the count. It’s also searching for volunteers to assist with the count.

People who have information on where bats are roosting, particularly in communities near the U.S. border, are asked to email vancouver@bcbats.ca.

“The counts are a wonderful way for people to get outside, respect social distancing, and be involved in collecting important scientific information,” Dagenais said.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusWildlife

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

Just Posted

‘Justice for Mona’ rally planned for Surrey

Security camera footage shows Mona Wang being dragged, stepped on during RCMP wellness check at UBCO

Sources receives $70K from SurreyCares

Funds will help with warehouse space for food programs in Surrey, White Rock, Langley

Drive-in movies coming to Cloverdale

Dolittle, Trolls World Tour playing one night each at rodeo grounds

Rooftop hatchlings ‘a nice addition’ to White Rock RCMP operations

Pair of seagull chicks hatched in ‘fenced playground’ on July 2

COVID-19: ‘Contactless’ donation drive in Surrey to help women in need

Items needed for women in shelters, transition houses in the Lower Mainland

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Police nab three impaired drivers in one night in Maple Ridge

Ridge Meadows RCMP served 80 impaired driving infractions in June

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Lower Mainland YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Haida matriarchs occupy ancient villages as fishing lodges reopen to visitors

‘Daughters of the rivers’ say occupation follows two fishing lodges reopening without Haida consent

Most Read