Bats and our “Belfry”December 21st, 2017
The roof of the Stanley Park Dining Pavilion will be replaced over the next few months. What does that mean for the little brown bat colony that resides under it in the spring and summer? Our Conservation Projects Manager, Vanessa Sadler, explains….
The little brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), or little brown bat, is one of five bat species that has been documented in Stanley Park. Every spring, around mid-April, females return to the maternity colony located in the Stanley Park Dining Pavilion attic. Typically only one young is born at a time, between late May and late June. Weighing only 1.4 grams at birth, the pups are initially blind and hairless. They open their eyes around day five, are completely furred by day nine, and able to fly at about three weeks.
Female little brown Myotis show a relatively high degree of fidelity to their maternity colonies, and may use anthropogenic structures and sites for 50 years or more. These roosts provide thermal regulation, shelter from weather and predation, and can be sites for social interaction. The maternity colony at the Stanley Park Dining Pavilion was discovered in 2007 and emergence counts have been conducted since 2009. A record of 341 bats were documented emerging from the attic in 2017!
Little brown Myotis was emergency listed as Endangered on Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act in 2014 because of sudden and dramatic population declines across the eastern portions of its range. The biggest threat to the survival and recovery of little brown Myotis is the fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome. It was first discovered in a cave in the state of New York in the winter of 2006 and is now found east of the Mississippi in the United States and east of Manitoba in Canada. The first case in western North America was detected in March 2016 in the state of Washington. Affecting hibernating bats, white-nose syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America since 2006.
White-nose syndrome has not yet been documented in British Columbia; however, there are other threats to little brown Myotis such as habitat loss or degradation, disturbance or harm, climate change, and pesticide use. As with other bat species, the little brown Myotis is an important part of the food web, contributing to controlling insect numbers during its evening feeding forays. To minimize disturbance to the Stanley Park Dining Pavilion maternity colony, scheduled roofing work will occur during the winter months and be completed before the bats return in mid-April. In addition, Stanley Park Ecology Society will coordinate the placement of bat boxes throughout the Park to provide additional habitat for this species at risk.
By Vanessa Sadler, Conservation Projects Manager