British Columbians are being asked to make sure they are not accidentally taking stowaway bats for a free ride when they return from their summer travels.
Little brown bats, and other bat species, sometimes hide in nooks and crannies of trailers, campers, umbrellas, trucks and other vehicles, and inadvertently take a ride hundreds or thousands of kilometres from home.
This is not only bad for lost stowaway bats, but if they carry white-nose syndrome, it can spell devastation for local bat populations.
White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in eastern North America, and recently arrived in nearby Washington state. It is not dangerous to people or pets, and it has not taken hold in British Columbia yet.
However, wildlife health experts, including British Columbia’s chief veterinary officer, are concerned bats inadvertently moved thousands of kilometres could cause the disease to spread to British Columbia bat populations.
Before hitting the road this year, travellers should check under closed umbrellas, awnings and gear racks, or anywhere else a small bat could hide. Truckers and railway workers are asked to inspect trailers and shipping containers for potential stowaways.
- If you do find a bat in your vehicle after a long trip, please notify the B.C. Wildlife Health Program (250 751-3219 or 250 751-3234) or the the BC Community Bat Program (1 855 922-2287 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Never touch a bat with your bare hands.
- Use a thick towel, oven mitts or a leather glove to remove a bat, or gently nudge the bat into a container using a whisk broom, and safely release it.
- A small percentage (less than 0.5%) of bats in B.C. carry the rabies virus. It is important to protect yourself, as you cannot tell from just looking at a bat if it is infected or not.
- If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, you should immediately wash the affected area with warm, soapy water and seek medical care.
Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative bats astray program: http://www.cwhc-rcsf.ca/docs/wildlife_health_notes/Bats_Astray.pdf
B.C. Wildlife Health Program: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/wildlife-health/wildlife-diseases/white-nose-syndrome
BC Community Bat Program: http://bcbats.ca/index.php