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Bats are returning to Alberta or waking up - make them welcome

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Spring migration usually brings up images of songbirds sweetly singing in yards, or waves of ducks following the melting snow north.

But Alberta's nine species of bats are also returning to our yards, cliffs and forests.

Three of those are coming from out of province - the rest overwinter in caves and are now starting to emerge to feed on insects also making their first appearance of 2024.

"So the bats are now coming out of hibernacula to try to establish a roost," says Melanie Whalen, specialist at Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society.

Her group takes in bats that have been found injured or just "downed" - giving them a chance to recover and go back to the wild.

"We could have really warm days and the bats are out and flying and trying to catch some insects," Whalen says. "Then the next day we can have temperature drop, and this can down a bat."

ENDANGERED

Three of Alberta’s bat species are listed as endangered. Another two are under consideration by COSEWIC. Like most all threatened and endangered species, habitat loss is a significant factor, but the worst culprit is a fungal infection called White Nose Syndrome that causes bats to wake from their hibernation, burning precious fat reserves and dying of starvation before insects emerge.

It has been found in Alberta in the past two years, but is widespread in the east.

Bats are often thought of as flying mice, but their lives are more similar to that of a grizzly bear.

They can live close to 40 years in the wild. They have one pup a year with a roughly 50 per cent survival rate. They have complex social structures and an excellent sense of smell.

Because bats can carry rabies, it's important to never touch a bat with bare hands. If a person is scratched or bitten by a bat they need to get medical attention immediately and the bat has to be euthanized for testing.

Rabies is always fatal unless treated immediately.

If you find a downed bat, call a professional such as Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society and they will retrieve it. Often a few days rest and proper feeding will allow bats to be released back into the wild.

Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society relies on donations and is currently campaigning for 500 monthly donors at $25 each.

https://www.calgarywildlife.org

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