Bats are in decline
Bat populations across North America are in severe decline. In Canada, five species of bats are on the Species at Risk list, including the little brown bat, the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) and the tri-coloured bat (Perimyotis subflavus). The little brown bat and northern long-eared bat have experienced more than a 90 per cent population drop since 2010, while tri-coloured bats have experienced a 75 per cent population drop during the same time period.
One of the leading causes of the decline is white-nose syndrome (WHS). This fungus attacks the bats’ skin while they hibernate, causing them to burn off fat reserves too quickly. This, in turn, leads to dehydration, starvation and, ultimately, death. WHS does not affect humans, but humans can contribute to the spread of the disease by circulating the fungus, which can linger on clothes and gear. WHS has killed millions of bats across North America and there is no known cure.
Bats have also been hurt by the loss of breeding habitats and declines in insect populations. Pesticides and intensive farming practices have made food harder to find.
There are things humans can do to help. Creating a bat box is one of the most common ways to help bats. A bat box is an artificial roost designed to give bats a place to “hang” in areas where there are few natural roosting sites. Bat boxes are easy to build and can be attached to trees or walls. There are many other ways to help bats, including removing invasive plant species, providing more green space and gardens that attract insects, and turning off outdoor lights at night.
Bats are much different from birds
Though both have wings, bats and birds are very different. Birds have feathers; bats have fur. Bat wings are also completely unlike bird wings — they are, in fact, their hands, with long fingers and thumbs that run the length of the wing. These wings are covered in patagium, which is a thin membrane.
Bats typically give birth to one live pup at a time (remember, they are mammals so they don’t lay eggs). A pregnancy ranges from six to nine weeks, depending on the species. Bat pups stay with the mother for four to five weeks until they can fly on their own and forage for food independently.