August 29: International night for bats
Bats are often unknown and misunderstood. However, they are really important since all eight species living in the province of Quebec eat insects. Furthermore, they can eat from 50 to 100% of their weight in insects each night. They use echolocation, like toothed whales do, to find their food and avoid predators and obstacles. Echolocation is the use of ultrasound and their echo to move around. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind but they are nearsighted.
Sadly, many bat populations are declining at an alarming rate. Many threats are in cause. Deforestation causes a loss of habitat for the bats that need old trees to hide during the day while waiting for the night to go out and hunt. The use of insecticides decreases the amount of insects available for the bats to feed on. Speleology, or the exploration of caves, disturbs the bats while they are trying to rest in a spot they really enjoy. Finally, two relatively new problems are causing a drastic decline in many populations, white-nose syndrome and wind turbines. White-nose syndrome affects bats that hibernate in deep caves. The mushroom, which thrives in cold and humid places, can be observed on the nose and wings of the bats and cases dehydration. This dehydration forces the bats to wake up in the winter in search for water. Finding neither water nor food, they die of exhaustion since they only have a small amount of energy to take them to spring. Wind turbines affect migrating bats, the ones that spend their winter in the south. Contrary to birds, which hit the blades of the wind turbines, bats die because of a change in air pressure behind the blades. They cannot detect this low pressure bubble and when entering it, a rapid change in the air pressure of their lungs causes an internal bleeding, leading to death.
In spite of all these threats, it is not too late to help the bats. On a small scale, you can declare a place where bats spend their days to the Ministère des forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, whether it is a barn, a roosting box or a cave. In fact, you can install one or many roosting box near your house to attract bats. Finnaly, you can participate in the different activities that take place on the International night for bats, which will take place on August 29, 2016.
Author: Stéphanie Bentz, Biologist and Education Coordinator
Photo: Stéphanie Bentz