Residents hope to document, protect Vancouver Island bat population
To say that he's batty about bats would be an obvious pun, but it's also an understatement.
Tim Ennis is the North Island coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program and the man who's tasked with helping locate and map bat populations around the mid-island.
"A lot of the people I've talked to are actually pretty keen about bats, they think they're cool and special and I would agree with that perspective." Ennis says.
"I think people are curious about them, appreciate them and want to know more about them".
Using a unique microphone attached to an iPad, Ennis is able to locate bats that are flying nearby thanks to the sonar the bats use for their flights.
Ennis is also a co-founder of the "Cumberland Bat Collective," a group that has a fascination with the mammals, often taking walks around the local area to go bat spotting.
Meghan Cursons is also behind the collective and says anyone from the public is welcome to join their efforts.
"Different people come for the walks and we have people who are just interested in bats, teachers, educators, families." Cursons says.
Cursons agrees there is more curiosity around bats lately after the unfortunate incident in which a Nanaimo man died after contracting rabies through a brief encounter with the mammal, something Cursons says was a very rare situation.
"There's a lot of numbers floating around but it's actually more than half of one per cent of bats and it could even be lower than that that actually test positive for rabies."
The group is trying to identify the locations around the Comox Valley where the bats are roosting so that when a vaccination is available against a fungus introduced in 2006 that's negatively impacting bat populations, it can be administered.
"The disease is spreading from east to west across the continent and in relation to the little brown bat, it wipes out 99 point something percent of their populations," Ennis says.
The virus results in the bats suffering from "White Nose Syndrome" and is threatening to greatly reduce the brown bat population, possibly even leading to its extinction.
He says the disease hasn't been documented here yet, but he believes it's right on our doorstep in the Puget Sound area and it's only a matter of time until it reaches here.
Anyone interested in finding out more about bats or wanting them removed from a building can contact the group through Facebook.