Forests, Fish and Wildlife
White-nose Syndrome in Island BatsIn 2006, a bat colony in New York State began to experience significant mortality during the winter months due to mysterious new illness. Because infected bats had white spots around their mouth and nose and along the edge of their wings, the infection became known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS).
Eventually, WNS was determined to be caused by a fungus,
Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that originated in Europe. It is unknown how this destructive agent arrived in North America but since its first discovery, it has spread quickly throughout bat populations in the northeast region.
The fungus causes the bats to wake up from hibernation and move around. Some bats will emerge and fly around in January and February seeking insects to eat but all of this activity leads to further fat losses. The cold eventually kills the bats.
Prince Edward Island has two species of bat that breed on: the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), and the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). During the spring, summer and early fall, these tiny mammals are commonly found in Island forests, fields and along streams feeding on insects and raising their young.
White Nose Syndrome on P.E.I.
However, there is little information about the Island's winter bat populations. Bats hibernate in large groups during the winter months in locations that have constant but cool (above freezing) temperatures such as caves and large tree cavities. Small numbers may also hibernate inside old barns, wells and old buildings with stone foundations.
Why should we be concerned?
White Nose Syndrome was first reported on Prince Edward Island during the winter of 2012-13. All of the reports were east of Summerside
Bats are fascinating animals that are vital to our environment and economy. Each bat will eat several thousand insects every day and collectively, each bat colony will consume tons of insects nightly providing enormous benefits to our crops, our forests and us. Every year bats provide billions of dollars in insect control, pollinate a variety of flowering plants and spread the seeds far and wide.
Researchers and wildlife biologists are monitoring populations, using artificial hibernation sites and exploring a variety of treatments and biological controls to see if they can minimize the impacts of WNS. They are also banding bats to track individuals over time, exploring differences in survival and testing if some bats can survive repeated exposure to the fungus.
Is Anything Being Done?
People are being asked to stay out of hibernation sites. This will help to reduce any disturbance to the bats and the chance of people spreading the fungus to new areas.
What Can We Do to Help?
You can also help us to develop a better idea of bat populations on PEI by reporting bat sightings to the Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division. To report winter and summer bats and bat colonies, please provide the following information:
- Your Name, Address and Contact Information:
- Sighting Date and Time of Day:
- Sighting Location:
- Number of Bats:
- Location of Colony (If known)
and report this information to: Mark Arsenault at (902) 368 6096 Chuck Gallison at 902 368 5275