Three Bat Species are Recommended to be Listed as Endangered

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[PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM]

This blog is written by Allysia Park – the Canadian National White Nose Syndrome Coordinator:

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) revealed the results of the last Wildlife Species Assessment meeting (see links below). Following a full report of the COSEWIC review process, the Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis and Tricoloured Bat are recommended to be listed as Endangered. This full report and recommendation were required after the emergency assessment of these 3 species by COSEWIC in 2012. For a spot on the Species at Risk Act (SARA) list, this recommendation must now be presented to the Minister of Environment, who can accept, reject, or send back the recommendation to COSEWIC for clarification. There will also be a public comment period. If the species are placed on SARA, a separate process of Recovery is established by stakeholders, and this will include recommended actions to assist the species.

Press release

Assessment results

We Were On Land and Sea!

 

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[PHOTO CREDIT: DF MCALPINE -NEW BRUNSWICK MUSEUM]

I previously wrote about spending a couple days with a CBC camera crew for an upcoming episode of Land and Sea on bats and white-nose syndrome in Atlantic Canada. Well it aired Sunday November 10 and can be viewed here if you missed it!

Bat Citizen Science Opportunities

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[CWF PHOTO CONTEST PICTURE SUBMITTED BY JADENE GRIMON]

There are several programs in Canada focusing on bat citizen science. They generally fall into these areas:

  1. reporting maternity colonies; emergence counts
  2. acoustic surveys
  3. backyard modification (bat houses, gardens)
  4. bat house counts
  5. reporting bats seen in winter

Researchers are interested in learning the locations of bat maternity roosts in the summer as this allows them to gather information on bat reproductive biology. Important information on maternity colonies includes the species of bat present and the number of individuals. If you have a colony of bats in your house, be sure not to disturb them and never handle a bat with your bare hands. An estimate of the number of individuals present can be determined by doing an emergence count: make yourself comfortable on the lawn at dusk and count bats as they emerge from the roost. Repeating counts over several nights will improve your accuracy.

Acoustic surveys generally require more training. Bats produce high frequency calls that are beyond human hearing. Bat detectors make these calls audible to humans. The bat species can sometimes be identified by analyzing the pattern of the call. Researchers use acoustic surveys to determine where bats are foraging and what habitats they prefer.

Bats need three things: food, clean water and a safe roosting spot. By offering any of these things in your backyard, you are creating bat habitat. You can offer a roosting spot by installing a bat house. You can also diversify your garden with plants that attract moths, an important food resource for bats. If your bat house is successful in attracting bats, researchers may be interested in how many individuals use the box.

Finally, be sure to report any bat that you see in the winter. Bats flying during the day in winter is a sign that white-nose syndrome is probably in your area. Researchers are also interested in learning where bats roost during the winter so that these sites can be properly protected and studied. Caves and mines suitable for bats to hibernate in are not common in Canada. Be sure not to disturb bats in winter by entering caves. Caving activities by humans may also spread the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, further endangering bats.

For more information about bat citizen science projects in your area and contact information, click the links below:

British Columbia

British Columbia

Alberta

Manitoba 

Ontario    

Quebec call 1 877 346-6763

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Prince Edward Island

Northwest Territories

Yukon

Newfoundland

 

 

A Possible Biocontrol for WNS

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[PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM]

I recently attended the 6th annual white-nose syndrome workshop held in Boise, Idaho Sept 3-6th. These meetings are a bit different from regular conferences in that it is mostly unpublished research presented. The goal is to give researchers and managers the most up-to-date information possible instead of waiting for formal publications, a process that can take months to years. Around 150 people attended with 8 from Canada. The biggest excitement of the conference focused on the possible use of bacteria as a biocontrol for the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome (WNS). However, we are still a long ways from determining how to stop or control WNS in the field. Nevertheless, the amount of research accomplished since the disease was first seen in 2006 is truly impressive. We learn more every year thanks to a small group of dedicated people, many of whom were at the workshop.

The second part of the workshop focused on specific areas of the issue, such as the Conservation & Recovery working group and the Diagnostics & Surveillance working group. These groups debate strategies, research priorities, best management practices, and other issues. It is a great venue for discussion amongst experts.

I look forward to the 7th annual WNS workshop.

Wayne Clifford’s poem – A Lament for Bats

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[PHOTO CREDIT: WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME.ORG]

Wayne Clifford, a poet from Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, did a CBC radio interview on Monday and read his poem, “A Lament for Bats” – a poem about New Brunswick’s declining bat populations. Please click here to see his poem as well as listen to Wayne read it.

Listing Bats In Canada

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[PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM]

North America has 48 different species of bats and 6 of them have experienced significant mortality due to white-nose syndrome. The species hardest hit are the Little Brown Bat, Northern Long-ear Bat, and the Tricolored Bat. In response, several jurisdictions have listed or are reassessing these species under their Endangered Species Acts. There are also non-government organizations that undertake the conservation assessment of species. In Canada, there is COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), a committee of experts that assesses and designates which wildlife species are in some danger of disappearing from Canada. In 2012, anemergency assessment subcommittee of COSEWIC assessed the status of the Little Brown Bat, Northern Long-ear Bat, and the Tricolored Bat in Canada. All three species were assessed as Endangered, although they have not yet been listed federally.

More information on the Federal Species at risk program can be found here.

However, several provincial governments have also listed these bat species as endangered, threatened, or at high risk. These include all provinces that are currently WNS positive: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The other provinces, which have not yet been impacted by WNS, list these species as secure. The Northwest Territories and Yukon have listed the Little Brown Bat and the Northern Long-ear Bat as imperiled because of small geographic range and few, or no, known hibernacula.

More information on bat listings in Nova Scotia can be found here:

http://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20130711002

http://novascotia.ca/natr/wildlife/biodiversity/species-list.asp#endangered

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2013/07/11/ns-at-risk-species-bats.html

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1141295-bats-among-animals-added-to-nova-scotia-protected-list

Bat listings in Ontario:

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/2ColumnSubPage/MNR_SAR_LITTL_BRWN_BAT_EN.html

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/2ColumnSubPage/MNR_SAR_NRTHRN_LNG_E_BAT_EN.html

Bat listings in New Brunswick:

http://laws.gnb.ca/en/showfulldoc/cr/2013-38//20130816

In the United States several states impacted by WNS have listed the 3 bat species mentioned above as endangered or vulnerable, while other states are reassessing the bats’ status. These species are also being assessed for Federal listing under the US Endangered Species Act. The conservation status of bats for each state and province can be found at Natureserve with an explanation of what the listing symbols mean.

So what does listing bats do to help conserve them? Beyond raising public awareness of the issue, listing bats could lead to research funding into methods on how to save them. Currently, the main methods known for conserving bats with regards to WNS are preventing the spread of WNS by humans and minimizing mortality throughout the lifecycle. Preventing the spread of WNS by humans means keeping people out of caves altogether or ensuring they follow strict decontamination procedures. This also prevents disturbance of bats during hibernation which can contribute to mortality, even in healthy bats.

Bats listed as wildlife under provincial Wildlife Acts cannot be hunted or harmed without permit. Listings bats can also impact maternity colonies. Maternity colonies are made up of female bats and their young. They can often be found in the attics of homes as hot environments keep the pups warm which helps their development. However, these roommates are not always welcome by humans. Humane exclusion guidelines can be found here.

Listing bats under endangered species acts can introduce new laws on how and when bats are excluded from buildings. Click here for more information on regulations in your province.

A New Name For The WNS Causing Fungus

 

 

Geomyces destructans

[PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM – a culture of Pseudogymnoascus destructans growing on agar in the lab]

The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, Geomyces destructans, has been renamed Pseudogymnoascus destructans in a recent paper published in the journal ‘Fungal Biology’.

Explaining why this name change occurred requires some background knowledge on fungal biology.

Many fungi reproduce both sexually and asexually. Asexual reproduction, or the ability to produce a clone of yourself, is less energetically expensive than sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction is beneficial in introducing genetic diversity into a population. Unfortunately for mycologists, the asexual stage of fungi often looks very different from the sexual stage. Therefore it can be hard to tell that two specimens are the same species. In the past, the asexual stage of a fungus was given a different scientific name from the sexual stage. This means that each species of fungi had two scientific names! In 2011 scientists decided to change this system to make things less confusing. The new system is ‘one fungus, one name’ where the asexual names of fungi will no longer be used.

The name Geomyces destructans represents the asexual stage of the white-nose fungus so under the new ‘one fungus, one name’ system Pseudogymnoascus destructans is the correct name. The white-nose fungus was first described in 2009, predating the introduction of the new naming system.

The world of fungal taxonomy is certainly a confusing one!

WNS Continues to Spread

 

 

WNS map

[PHOTO CREDIT: WHITE-NOSE SYNDROME.ORG]

As you can see in the above map, white-nose syndrome continued to spread at a rapid pace during the 2012-2013 winter season. Nine new counties in Canada were confirmed white-nose positive. There were so many dead bats submitted from Atlantic Canada that it took until June to process them all and update these maps.

Many of these bats were found dying or dead in the snow by local residents. Suzanne and Martin Turgeon, keen local naturalists with an interest in photography, found a dead Little Brown Bat near a summer house in northern New Brunswick when they went to boil maple water. A necropsy done by Scott McBurney of CCWHC found that the bat had white-nose syndrome, and so another county was added to the map.

Bat Suze fooubd WL Apr 2013 (6)

[PHOTO CREDIT: SUZANNE AND MARTIN TURGEON]

Hibernating bat populations have decreased by 91% in Nova Scotia, 99% in New Brunswick, 84% in Ontario, and 90% in Quebec.

The only other province with white-nose syndrome, Prince Edward Island, has also experienced significant bat mortality in the winter. However, the bat population on the island pre-WNS is unknown so the magnitude of the decline cannot be determined. This level of mortality is also being seen in the northeastern United States and will no doubt continue as the disease spreads west across the continent. Scientists have estimated that 5.7-6.7 million bats have died so far.

I Got To Meet Our Bat Hero – Dara!

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[PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM -SPECIMENS FROM THE NEW BRUNSWICK MUSEUM’S BAT COLLECTION. THESE INCLUDE THE BIG BROWN BAT, LITTLE BROWN BAT, NORTHERN LONG-EAR BAT, AND THE TRICOLORED BAT]

In a previous post (May 24, 2013) I wrote about Dara Glaspy, a grade 2 student from New Brunswick with an interest in bats. She has been constructing bat houses with her father to raise money for research on bats and white-nose syndrome. On July 17 Dara visited me here at the New Brunswick Museum along with her parents, brother, and her teacher. So far Dara has raised an amazing $350 from selling her bat houses. The family has been very impressed with the community response and interest in the project. Donald McAlpine and I gave the family a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum; including the bat collection and the actively growing fungal colonies that are part of my research.

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[PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM – DARA GAVE ME A COPY OF THE POSTER SHE MADE FOR HER BAT PROJECT]

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[PHOTO CREDIT: KAREN VANDERWOLF/NB MUSEUM – THE LARGEST BAT SPECIES IN CANADA: THE HOARY BAT]