It’s the first time when researchers are horrified to find bats in Manitoba suffering from a fatal infection: the white-nose syndrome.
The disease has killed bat populations in other regions. It has also affected bats in the area of the Lake St. George
The manager of lab that studies bats at the University of Winnipeg, Kaleigh Norquay was one of the people that made the discovery. She said she was horrified:
“To walk in and see this beautiful place that normally is such a refuge for these animals to be filled with so much death … it was really hard for me.”
The syndrome attacks the bat’s skin (ears, wings, and nose) when the animal hibernates. It’s a fungus that grows in cool and humid places. It causes the bats to wake up earlier from their hibernation, and they burn up more calories to survive. Unfortunately, they end up starving to death.
At the end of March, she and other researchers discovered the bats at the St. George cave. Tests showed positive for the infection. In the cave, there are almost 10,000 little brown bats, one of two species that hibernate in Manitoba and that are vulnerable to the disease. The northern long-eared bat is also at high risk of infection.
The estimation of deaths rises at hundreds of bats, and in some regions 90% of little brown bats are dead. The syndrome first appeared in 2006 in New York, and it spread to other US states and 6 Canadian provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec.
Deaths of Bats Affect the Pest Population
With fewer bats around this summer, campers or cottagers will see an increase in mosquitoes or pests in the forests, according to a biologist with the Manitoba’s Department of Sustainable Development, Bill Watkins:
“Bats are incredibly voracious eaters of insects. A bat can eat as many as 5,000 insects in a single night.”
Farmers in the south of Canada have already reported the increase in pests like moths or grasshoppers, killing the crops.
Watkins believes that the province will not be impacted during the growing season, though. The Department of Sustainable Development recommends people not to go into caves to avoid spreading the fungus spores. The white-nose syndrome does not pose any health risks to people, but you shouldn’t touch living or dead bats since they can carry rabies.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.