A joint effort between WCS Canada’s BatCaver and Alberta Environment and Parks has led to the discovery of the largest bat hibernation cave ever recorded in Alberta, outside the Rocky Mountains.
The newly-discovered cave is being used for hibernation by several hundred Little Brown Myotis bats, listed as Endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The cave was formed by weak sulphuric acid dissolving bedrock, making conditions in the narrow, muddy cave impossible to fully inspect hand-sized pockets, cracks and fissures that compose roosting sites. Thus, population numbers could be significantly higher.
This discovery demonstrates that large hibernation sites do exist outside the Rocky Mountains, and similar caves may exist in other non-mountainous areas throughout the boreal forest.
It is now more important than ever to discover new hibernation sites since the arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS) to Washington State in March 2016. Bats with WNS are infected with a fungus that wakes the individual bats and forces them to burn through their precious stored winter fat long before the return of insect season. It spreads throughout hibernation sites and can kill more than 90 percent of resident bats. WCS Canada’s research into bat hibernation sites aims to prepare for the arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS) by providing an opportunity to learn more about the behaviour and ecology of bats before the disease arrives.
To learn more about this important discovery, click here to read the full release.You can help bats in Canada. Click here to support BatCaver, and WCS Canada’s ongoing bat research.
Photo credits: Banner | William Halliday © WCS Canada