THE NATURE CONSERVANCY CANADA
Bat Hibernacula Inventory and Protection in the Thompson, Okanagan, Boundary
Bats often go unseen, but they play a critical role in forest ecosystems by consuming enormous numbers of insects. When bats are disturbed by human activity during hibernation, they sometimes abandon their sites, causing them to use important energy reserves, and decreasing their chances of surviving the winter. Human access to bat hibernation sites may also spread pathogens such as white nose syndrome, a fungus that has caused massive mortality of bats across North America. That’s why in 2011, Nature Conservancy of Canada received a total of $50,000 over two years to protect bat populations in southern British Columbia. This project built on existing knowledge in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions and created an inventory of significant bat hibernation sites while assessing the actions needed to protect these sites from disturbance. Grant funds were also used to install two gates, allowing access by bats, but excluding human entry at a high priority hibernation cave. An interpretive sign explaining the importance of bat conservation was posted at one gated opening that was previously being used by recreationists.
The project supports Sustainable Forestry Initiative goals of protecting biological diversity and wildlife habitat as well as identifying special sites and managing them in a manner appropriate to their unique features.