Lakeland goes absolutely batty

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December 17, 2015 1:58 PM

Lakeland College's Enviro Club builds bat houses as part of their bat awareness campaign.

Lakeland College’s Vermilion Campus Enviro Club has taken up a new cause.
Due to loss of habitat and a disease called white nose syndrome, Canada’s bat population is on the decline, so the club thought it would be a good idea to bring awareness about the furry winged animal.
“We’re going to be doing presentations, hopefully come spring, and the other half (of the project) is trying to help what populations we have of these animals within our community,” said Katie Harris, second-year conservation and restoration ecology major and Enviro Club president.
According to an article published on the Lakeland College website, bats save millions of dollars in agriculture every year because they are a good source of pest control.
Bats feed on insects, which in turn saves on pesticides, so not only are they cost efficient to have around, but reduce the amount of pesticides that make their way into the environment and water systems.
They are also prime pollinators of Mexico’s agave plant, the base ingredient in tequila, so those who enjoy a good shot of Jose Cuervo would be smart to recognize the bat’s plight.
“There is actually a diverse setup of pollinators out there and they are all equally as important,” said Harris.
Because of the bat’s habitat loss, the Enviro Club made a bunch of bat houses, some of which they donated to Dillberry Lake Provincial Park where there is a large bat population in a building that’s being torn down.
The bat houses are essentially large wooden boxes with several chambers for the bats to hibernate in during the winter.
Each house can fit hundreds of bats, where they can huddle together and maintain their body heat.
But the other factor hurting Canada’s bats, the white nose syndrome, is a little harder to fix.
“It’s a fungus that came from Europe and the bats in Europe are immune to it,” said Harris.
“It traveled across the ocean and started on the east coast of Canada where it has actually affected bats the worst.”
The syndrome is now slowly spreading westward throughout bat colonies and there is no known cure for it.
White nose causes bats to wake up during hibernation, lose their body heat and die, decimating entire colonies at a time.
Harris said their campaign has had more success than expected and this spring they hope to start doing presentations at local elementary schools.
“We’re really happy with how it’s going and we seem to be making a slight impact on the community, which is more than we hoped for.”

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