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The population of bats is decreasing, why should it be a matter of concern for us

Burnaby: In the coming months, only a few bats will be seen roaming in the evening sky. This is the time throughout the year when some species of bats disappear from sight. During this winter season they rest in narrow crevices of rocks or in caves. The good thing is that the disappearance of bats like this is only for a short time. Bats are important for a healthy ecosystem. They help in the diffusion of nutrients in the environment and pollination of plants.

They also feed on insects, which reduces the need for pesticides in farming. Bats bring a lot of benefits to our ecosystem. Since they do their activities in the dark, we are often not aware of the help they get from them. What is more worrying than the seasonal disappearance of bats is that North America has been witnessing a decline in the bat population for decades. Their habitat loss due to deforestation, urbanization and expansion of agricultural land is leading to a lack of suitable habitat for bats. Also, due to spraying of insecticides on crops, a large number of bats also die.
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Bat population decline
However, the troubles of bats do not end here, but ‘white nose syndrome’ is spread due to fungus and ‘pseudogymnoscus’. More than 6 million bats have died in North America due to this deadly fungus. ‘White nose syndrome’ has proved particularly devastating in eastern Canada, where it has led to a more than 90 percent decline in populations of brown little myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and northern myotis (Myotis septentrianalis).

Outbreaks of the fungus are also increasing in Western countries, where the first case was reported in July in Saskatchewan. ‘White nose syndrome’ is not found in British Columbia, but it is threatened. Kaylee Byers of Simon Fraser University said: “Our research team has been working on wildlife health for more than a decade in the British Columbia unit of the Canadian Department of Wildlife Health Cooperative. To understand the threats facing 15 species of bats living in British Columbia, we studied 275 bats killed between 2015 and 2020. We found that the most common causes of death are linked to human activity. This information can help us trace the bat population at this time between urbanization and climate change. To save the lives of bats, we need to know how they die.
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cats killing bats
Kaylee Byers said, “A quarter of the bats we studied were killed by cats.” This should come as no surprise – pet cats are notorious for killing wildlife. In Australia, it is estimated that free-roaming domesticated cats kill 39 million animals every year. These cats pose a threat not only to bats but also to biodiversity. Some cities in Iceland have implemented a ‘cat curfew’ to protect their dwindling bird population.

In such a situation, the easiest way to save the lives of bats and other birds is to keep pet cats indoors and keep an eye on them roaming outside. Cats bring home only about 20 percent of their prey, so owners may not be aware of their cat’s hunting habits. Recent research suggests that these actions are most important near forest areas. Research has found that cats prey on wildlife within 500 meters of the forest. Threats to wildlife can be reduced by focusing on cats living near wild areas.

bats dying because of humans
Keeping cats indoors is beneficial for them as well. Cats that live indoors have a much longer life span than cats that roam outside. According to our study, half of the bats died due to human activities. Most of the bats (90 percent) included in our study belonged to the ‘synanthropic species’, which live among humans. The study found that 25 percent of bat deaths were caused by collisions with objects of human use, such as cars or buildings. Interestingly, most of the bats that die in this way are likely to be males. It is not entirely clear why this is so, but research suggests that male bats can fly farther than female bats, making them more likely to collide with vehicles or buildings.

an incomplete picture
Studying wildlife is not easy. Bats live in many different places, from caves to barns and barns to attics, and scientists cannot monitor bats in all places at all times. Information from people helps us to collect information about bats and understand the health of their local population.

(Kylie Byers, Simon Fraser University)

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