Hurray! Local biologists discovered the hibernation location of an endangered cutie-patootie Albertan bat species (undisclosed, obviously). The team that discovered the location say that this will help them pre-empt aid for the bat colony should it be infected with white nose disease, which wakes up bats during their hibernation and results in their starvation before spring.
The discovery of a large population of hibernating bats in a cave in Alberta’s boreal forest is a breakthrough for biologists, says one of the people who discovered the cave.
The cave — in an undisclosed location — is home to the largest hibernating bat colony discovered in Alberta outside of the Rockies.
“It demonstrates that this kind of bat habitat may well exist in other non-mountainous areas throughout the boreal forest,” said David Critchley, co-coordinator of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada’s BatCaver program in the province.
The cave is home to more than 200 endangered little brown myotis bats, Critchley told CBC’s Radio Active on Monday.
While First Nations people and Alberta Environment officials have known about the narrow, muddy cave for decades, it was never visited in winter until a four-member crew entered it last month to check for bats.
The crew collected DNA and guano samples and placed monitors to record temperature and humidity and bat vocalizations.
Finding hibernation spots has become urgent in Western Canada since the discovery in Washington State last year of white-nose syndrome.
The fungal infection awakens the bats during hibernation, forcing them to burn through their stored winter fat long before the return of insect season.
The disease spreads through hibernation sites and can kill more than 90 per cent of resident bats.
Critchley said understanding where Alberta’s bat species are living is crucial in protecting habitats and preventing the spread of white-nose syndrome.
“If they end up having white-nose syndrome, which they don’t at this stage in Alberta, then we need to know where they are,” he said.
Kill the skeeters, you adorable flying rat things!