Biologists Race To Save Flathead Valley Bats

Oct 29, 2014

This long-eared myotis is found only in North America and is susceptible to White Nose Syndrome.
Credit Christian Engelstoft

Bat biologists are in a race against time. A fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome is killing bats by the millions.

Regional biologists are scrambling to collect baseline data on bat habitat, species, and populations before the disease gets a foothold in the northwest. The Canadian government asked conservation groups this summer to help study bats in British Columbia's Flathead River Valley.

Filmmaker Leanne Allison produced a five minute video documenting the resulting “Bat BioBlitz."

"Even without a magnifying lens I can see she's super-old," bat specialist Cori Lausen says in the video, describing a bat caught in one of the study's nets. "Her teeth, her canine teeth, are extremely worn off. We know that bats can live over 40 years. So, for this species we can only guess that she's probably in that same range, 30 plus years; still going strong, still having the babies. Their reproductive success is not fabulous, which is why of course we're all worried their populations won't rebound."

Lausen, with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, led this summer's Bat BioBlitz.

She tells Edward O'Brien scientists believe White Nose Syndrome started in a cave in Albany, New York and is now found in about 28 states and five Canadian provinces. The fungus kills bats as they hibernate. Hear their conversation by clicking on the audio file above.