By Amy Stephenson
Springtime is when things come alive and it’s exciting to spy the first robin or the buds on the trees. With all the activity we might not notice certain creatures that are buzzing around a little later on.
Having bats in the community may not sound as endearing as a feathered friend. But bats are very considerate neighbours; they help to control mosquitoes and other garden pests along with being great pollinators and seed spreaders.
An important safety consideration is bats should not be touched by humans as they can put you at risk of getting rabies. Call public health if you have been in contact with a bat or bat saliva.
Of the eight species of bat in Ontario, three are listed as endangered. This is because there has been increased urbanization that leads to a loss of habitat. There has also been a bat epidemic of white-nose syndrome. First detected in 2009, this fungus has decimated approximately 95 per cent of the populations of several Ontario bat species.
But there are things we can do to help our nocturnal neighbours. As part of the recovery efforts, Canadian Wildlife Federation and Ontario Nature they are looking for volunteers like you to collect data on the presence of bats in our area.
How to get involved
- Get a bat box! Ideally, installation should happen from March to May. If you’re up for a project, you can make a bat box. A pattern can be found online at cwc.fcf.org/en/explore/bats. Click on “Bat House in Your Backyard” and download the instructions. Or you can buy a box. They are available at local retailers like Canadian Tire, Urban Nature Store and Lee Valley. Check to be sure it has multiple layers and roughed interior surface.
- Find the perfect spot to hang it. Your bat house should be placed where it will get at least eight hours of sunlight, preferably facing south. It should be installed 10-20 feet above the ground about 300 metres from a water source in a spot free of light pollution. Avoid using trees as that can increase predator exposure.
- Be patient and keep your eyes open. Wait, it may take up to a year for your box to be occupied. To see if your box is occupied you can watch for bats exiting around dusk or you can look for guano underneath your box as an indicator that your box is inhabited.
- Share your knowledge
Contact Karen Vanderwolf, a Trent University PhD candidate who has partnered with Ontario Nature and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fun Bat Facts:
- All Ontario bat species weigh less than a chipmunk.
- A newborn little brown bat weighs an astonishing 25 percent of its mother’s weight.
- Bat species found in Ontario are the hoary bat, the eastern red bat, the silver-haired bat, the big brown bat, the tricolored bat, the little brown myotis bat, the northern long-eared myotis and the eastern small-footed myotis.