A one and a half hour bat box workshop turns into warm discussion and develops new ideas from enthusiastic participants on how to save bat populations in New Brunswick. Citing news from CBC, Graham Forbes, a biologist at the University of New Brunswick and a member of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada subcommittee said, in New Brunswick, it’s estimated about 99 per cent of little brown bats have died. For most New Brunswickers, the difference comes in the form of unbearably high levels of biting insects. This is because each bat can eat up to one thousand insects every hour and there are many individuals in each bat colony. If the bat colony that used to be near your cottage or house has died, then all of the insects they would have eaten have been breeding instead. This doesn’t just put a strain on your evening however, because this natural form of pest control helps to save 23 billion dollars a year in the agricultural sector alone.
According to one workshop participant, if we want people to put a bat box in their yard, first step is to change the stigma of a bat. The stigma of a bat is always correlated with a creepy creature and most people ask the same question “why we have to save a bat?” The conversation has to be steered away from the fear and the myths and towards recognition of a social mammal that is vital to our ability to live as we choose and desperately needs our help to survive. Simply giving bats safe places to live by putting up bat boxes in suitable locations will go a long way. They can feed themselves very well, but their habitat is disappearing and they are still vulnerable to white-nose syndrome so new places to sleep during the day and hibernate through the winter is vital.
Another participant added; help from the media will be needed to change the stigma of a bat and to make people understand about these facts. Not only mainstream media like the CBC. Moreover there also needs to be government and private sector support in funding an institution or group that can mass produce bat boxes and then give them to residents who will put a bat box in a suitable location on their property and monitor them for a reduced price or for free. “Look at how much losing the bats costs,” one of the bat box workshop participants William argues. “With how much money the private sector is losing… for them, 60 dollars for a bat box is a joke compared with the loss we have seen from the decline of bat populations.”
As Afton Conneely, Executive Director of Falls Brook Centre explains, “Falls Brook Centre provides a bat box which follows certain standards and fits with the maritime climate. We make them to order and the 60 dollars is to cover the production cost and allows us to hold these workshops to give people the best chance of succeeding in attracting and retaining a bat colony.” A bat box workshop also shows how participants can create a bat box by themselves based on the standard of Bat Conservation International, an organization dedicated to the conservation of bats through education and community action.
The news of the effect of white nose syndrome on our bat populations can seem disheartening. However, there are signs that some bat populations on the continent are starting to gain a resistance to the fungus. Our actions can help give these feisty flyers a fighting chance; by not spraying pesticides, by leaving them their habitat, and by giving them new homes to settle into we can make a difference in their survival. Get back to enjoying our evenings on the deck, knowing that the bats are enjoying their dinners instead of the bugs enjoying us.
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