The bat population across Canada is facing multiple threats, from diseases to habitat loss. Large trees that have sheltered bat populations for years have given way to concrete structures as urban expansion continues unabated. But the invention of bat boxes could bring some respite to the beleaguered bats.
Bats need a warm and secure place for the daytime and bat boxes are an effective and easy way to provide both. The bat boxes are designed, keeping in mind the needs and requirements of multiple bat species. The bats, especially the female ones, seek out warm and humid shelters every summer to give birth to pups. They especially seek out big old trees with hollows, and desolate attics, and barn lofts.
Bats are also vulnerable to the white-nose syndrome, which is a fungal epidemic that has overwhelmed bat populations in the past from Manitoba to Newfoundland. Some regions of Canada have lost around 90% of their bat population and 3 out of 19 known species in the country have been designated as endangered due to this fungal infection.
A Way To Protect The Bats
The white fungal infection affects the bat population by quickly using up their reserves of fat, which leaves them vulnerable to the cold. And the bat boxes provide warmth and shelter in these cold months.
The bat boxes have the added advantage of keeping bats out of your homes, especially if there are rooms that are seldom used. Having them in your backyard could eliminate the insects there.
Researcher Karen Vanderwolf is studying bats at Ontario’s Trent University. She says that very little has been studied about the efficacy of bat boxes. And she is studying ways to change that.
She has collaborated with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. She is seeking out citizen scientists with knowledge of bats to help her with valuable information about their roosting and breeding habits.
She wants to know from people who have already installed bird boxes in their homes and had bats living in them. She wants owners of bat boxes to undertake a simple process as many as 4 times between May and October. She calls it the ‘emergency survey.’
She wants them to keep an eye on the bat box just before dusk, and record the presence of bats in them. Even the absence of bats is important information and will help in the research project.
Even a daytime visit to check up on the presence of bats in the bat boxes will help a lot. She says that if more people take part in the survey, researchers will be able to surmise the reasons that make a boat box appealing to the bat population.
Bats prefer a temperature between 25C and 35C to raise their litter. Vanderwolf says that bat boxes with multiple small chambers appear to be more popular than a single large bat box.
Spike In Bat Boxes Blamed For Deaths Of Bat Pups
There have been reports that the pups died out as the temperature inside the boxes got too hot, reaching as high as 50C.
She hopes to convince some participants in the survey to install a device to measure the humidity and temperature levels inside the box at regular intervals of an hour.
She wants to look into the reasons behind the spike in temperature inside the bat boxes. She feels that the way they are constructed could be the reason. She is also looking into other possible factors behind it.
She says that there is very little information about bats in Canada. But she says that the bat boxes could help in conservation efforts, but more research is needed to get them right.
The bat population has seen a rise in recent months during the pandemic. But she feels that surveys are needed in caves during their hibernation during the winter months.
There has also been concern about the possibility of bats spreading COVID-19 like diseases, as bats are suspected to have been the origin of the virus. But Vanderwolf says that the possibility has been ruled out in the big brown bat, but other species need to be studied before coming to a conclusion.