Summer is here, and with it comes camping and other activities that involve travelling inter-provincially or perhaps down into the United States. While you want to take the experience home with you, that should not include accidentally packing up a bat!
Alberta is home to at least nine species of bats and while they are really handy to have around when the insects are buzzing, you don’t want to take one home with you. Bats can be accidental stowaways in camping gear, roosting in closed umbrellas, camper awnings, and other nooks on trailers and vehicles. If no one notices a bat hanging out, it can inadvertently take a ride hundreds or thousands of kilometres from home.
The primary reason to avoid transporting bats is to prevent the spread of disease that is deadly to bats. White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is caused by a fungus found in caves, and has killed millions of hibernating bats in eastern North America. WNS is getting closer to Alberta; it is now in Washington. Scientists suspect that an infected bat from eastern North American was accidently transported by a vehicle to Washington.
Some tips for minimizing the chances of transporting a bat:
- Before you go to bed, inspect and close awnings, umbrellas and shipping containers so bats don’t roost there.
- Before you pack up camp, inspect the outside of your camper, check awnings and the underside of your umbrella. If the awning or umbrella is open, the bat will probably leave on its own. If the bat does not leave, carefully and gently nudge the bat with a broom or other long object to encourage it to fly away.
- If you find a bat when setting up camp, and your last campsite was in Alberta, encourage the bat to fly away. If your last campsite was outside of Alberta, the bat should not be released.
If you find a bat, keep children and pets away from it. Like most wildlife, bats will bite if they are handled.
If you need to move a bat, there are a few considerations:
- Do not use bare hands. Use a thick towel, oven mitt or a leather glove to remove a bat
- You can move a bat the same way as moving a bee: gently place a container over the bat and slide a piece of cardboard underneath.
- In Alberta, less than 1 per cent of bats have rabies and they only bite in self-defence. However, as a precaution you should always avoid direct contact with bats. If you are scratched or bitten by a bat, call Alberta Health Link: 811.
To report a stowaway bat, or learn more about Alberta’s bats, contact or visit:
- For wildlife rehabilitation centres for bats, visit the website above.
- Alberta Environment and Parks (toll-free in Alberta) 310-3773; AEP.Info-Centre@gov.ab.ca; www.AEP.alberta.ca
We all need to work together to help prevent accidental transportation of a bat from a WNS infected area to Alberta. Railway workers and truck drivers are also being asked to be doubly vigilant while inspecting trailers and shipping containers. Although WNS has not been detected in British Columbia, it is likely that it could spread there soon. The longer we can keep WNS out of Alberta, the longer we can protect our vulnerable bat populations.