Although terrifying in appearance, bats are incredibly effective at combatting one of the most annoying pests at the cottage: mosquitoes.
The brown bat eats up to 1,200 mosquitoes every hour, which means fewer bug bites dockside and around the campfire. But these underappreciated, hardworking winged critters are facing more than just a public image problem: they’re also at risk.
The federal government has just added the brown bat to the species at risk list, as their populations continue to drop.
The culprit behind the plummeting numbers is white nose syndrome, a disease where white fungus will grow around the bat’s muzzle, ears, and wings while it’s hibernating in the winter. The disease also attacks the bat’s muscle tissues and blood vessels. According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, bats infected with white nose syndrome end up dying due to dehydration, since they lose water from their wings and from starvation, and because they burn energy from frequent wake-ups and then cannot find bugs to replenish their fat reserves.
Since 2012, the fungus has killed more than 5.7 million bats in North America. Kenton Lysak, an employee at Saskatoon’s Beaver Creek Conservation Area, said the disease has caused the Canadian bat population to decline by 95 percent.
To reduce the spread of the disease, the Ontario department of Natural Resources and Forestry advises disinfecting clothes and equipment after being in a cave, avoid taking the same equipment from one cave to another, and avoid non-commercial caves or abandoned mines where bats may be living.
Lysak says that another way to help the brown bat is by building bat boxes in your own backyard (or at the cottage!)
The kid-friendly activity will not only help your neighbourhood bats, it will also teach children the benefits of bats.
“I think where the misconception is, is that they’re dirty, or that they fly in your hair,” Lysak said in an interview with Global News. “There are a lot of myths about them, but they’re a good animal to have around.”Like the smear campaign against spiders, it’s time we start looking at bats as do-gooder, bug-eaters—and not something that needs to be shooed away.
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