Bats make good neighbours, say conservation advocates

A bat box adorns the home of Dr. Mark Brigham in the north west of the city. Bigham is a bat expert who created the bat rescue program in Regina. Helping bats found in the province for over 35 years.
Photo by: Kayla Guerrette

By: Kayla Guerrette

 Mark Brigham is known as the bat man. Brigham, a biologist at the University of Regina, wants to save all of the bats found in Saskatchewan.

Over the years it has become more of a daunting task. For the past 10 years, Brigham has cared for injured and abandoned bats at the Saskatchewan Science Centre. But, in 2021, he has seen a steep decline in bats. Although there could be many causes behind this decline, Bigham worries it might be white-nose syndrome.

“White-nose syndrome is a fungus that affects the bat species,” said Brigham “There is no record of it in Saskatchewan yet but it has been found in Manitoba so I expect it to get here anytime.”

Of the over 1400 species of bats in the world, eight of them call Saskatchewan home. Two of those, the little brown bat and the long-eared bat are on the endangered species list.

In his work, Brigham has come across many misconceptions about bats. He believes if people better understood these animals, they might be less afraid and more motivated to protect them.

“They are not interested in human blood. They will not fly in your hair. They have no affinity to your hair whatsoever. They are not flying mice,” said Brigham.

Along with disease, another concern for bats in Saskatchewan is unsuitable nesting locations. In February 2021, nearly 800 bats were found in a curling rink in Unity, Saskatchewan.

“I think they have been living there for 50 years,” said Sharon Del Frari, Mayor of Unity. “We would often see one here and there flying. … I was not surprised that they were there. What surprised me was just how many there were.”

Dave Pentecost is the bat removal specialist who removed the bats from the curling rink in Unity Saskatchewan. This has been the biggest job to date.

“I am actually not done yet. There are still bats in the walls of the curling rink and they have torn through the insulation, “said Pentecost. “Once they are safely removed, I will need to rebuild the roof and fix the damage to the walls.”

Pentecost said bats often find little crevasses in buildings to nest in, which can cause structural damage and can also endanger the bats.

In this case, all the bats that have been removed have been safely relocated to the Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The bats have been popular in town as they keep the mosquito population in check. So, Del Frari and others are in the process of building them new accommodations.

Along with keeping insects at bay, Brigham believes bats could also be the answer to preventing future pandemics.

“There is little doubt that ultimately the coronavirus came from a bat, a type that lives in Asia,” said Brigham “Most bats harbour lots and lots of coronaviruses, and they don’t get sick from them. It would be very cool to learn how they manage to do that.”

 

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