Bats along the river are helpful

Bats along the Alouette River.

  • Aug. 31, 2011 7:00 p.m.
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Walking on the dikes along the Alouette River in the early evening is the best way to observe one of the most interesting creatures along our waterways.

Here in British Columbia, we are lucky enough to have 17 species of bats, one of the most important little creatures in the neighbourhood.

The poor old bat does not have a very good reputation, mainly because of movies and books, but the vampire bat does not live here. Nor is it likely to chase you for his lunch.

Our bats are much more helpful, flying about, snatching up airborne insects in great quantities and are great fans of mosquitoes, which helps to control the pests.

The little bat most common here along the coastal region is the long-eared brown bat. He looks like a fox, with big ears and has rich, brown-coloured fur. He also has very sharp teeth and may carry rabies, so if you find one on the ground, do not pick it up.

There are several species which are on the endangered list and added to this problem is the lack of insects this year because of the long wet spring and a terrible disease called white nose syndrome. So far this killer has not reached us, but has devastated the bat population in America.

The theory is that an unknown fungus attacks the bats, tricking them into using their store of body fat, so they starve to death. If you see a dead bat with a white, powder-like substance over its face laying on the ground, leave it alone and contact the conservation officer. So far no  one has come up with a cure.

Many of our bats stay through the winter, hibernating in caves and old mines. They even live in barns, trees and occasionally a house chimney or attic. They emit a high pitched sound when flying and use this sound like radar to find their way. When in danger, they hiss and growl, but it is so quiet you can hardly hear it.

There are hundreds of different bats around the world , some are large and some are small like ours, but all serve an important purpose, and are one more link to this beautiful planet.

 

Liz Hancock is a member of the

Alouette River Management Society.