Parks Canada working to protect bats and critical habitats in Atlantic Canada
Parks Canada is responsible for the management and protection of 450 000 km2 of land in Canada. Mandated to conserve Species at Risk, bats are a high priority for many parks, especially in Atlantic Canada. There are seven National Parks and one National Historic Site that conduct monitoring and research on bats. Atlantic Canada currently has four hibernating species and three migrating bat species.
Park Ecologists in the Atlantic region increased monitoring actions for bats when white-nose syndrome (WNS) was first detected in this region in 2011. Each park in the region has deployed ultrasonic acoustic recorders to monitor bat activity at key foraging areas and known hibernaculum. Parks Canada is contributing data to the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat), a multi-national, multi-agency coordinated bat monitoring program across the continent.
The locations of these monitoring actions include Nova Scotia (Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site and Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site), Prince Edward Island (PEI National Park), New Brunswick (Fundy National Park and Kouchibouguac National Park), and in Newfoundland and Labrador (Gros Morne National Park and Terra Nova National Park).
Alongside the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, Parks Canada sites have been monitoring the spread of WNS. In 2011, Fundy National Park was the first park to confirm the presence of WNS in Atlantic Canada. The fungus, which causes WNS, has since been confirmed throughout New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI, resulting in steep declines in bat populations throughout the national parks in these provinces. WNS was discovered on the island of Newfoundland in 2017, however, the fungus has only been confirmed outside Gros Morne and has not yet been confirmed in Terra Nova.
Despite declines due to WNS, the seven bat species documented in Atlantic Canada are still being detected at Parks Canada places, including the three endangered hibernating bat species: Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis, and Tri-colored bat. Researchers with the University of Waterloo, St. Mary’s University and Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute have conducted research comparing pre-WNS and post-WNS data using acoustical and captures using mist nets. A recent paper (reference below) comparing captures pre and post WNS indicates that Northern Myotis may be experiencing steeper declines than other species.
Acoustic monitoring has also contributed to confirmations of new bat species in national parks, including the Eastern Red bat in PEI National Park, as well as the Big Brown bat in Kouchibouguac.
Endangered hibernating bat species are still being recorded across all sites in the Atlantic region. Researcher Lori Phinney, from the University of Waterloo, assessed long-term summer activity trends of bats in Nova Scotia at 91 sites monitored in 2005/2006 and again in 2018/2019. The study found that Kejimkujik was an area of relatively high Little Brown Myotis and Tri-colored bat activity pre and post WNS in southwest Nova Scotia and is an important area to monitor for disease recovery.
Acoustic monitoring is being used in all seven parks as a form of passive monitoring but Ecologists agree that further research will be required to accurately evaluate the state of bat populations. Techniques being used in PEI and Kejimkujik, such as mist netting and using radio tracking to locate roosting colonies, will be the next step for many other national parks.
Parks Canada sites in Atlantic Canada will continue to monitor and research bat populations in an effort to protect these iconic species of the nighttime landscape.
Balzer, E.W., Grottoli, A.D., Phinney, L.J., Burns, L.E., Vanderwolf, K.J. and Broders, H.G. (2021), Capture Rate Declines of Northern Myotis in the Canadian Maritimes. Wildl. Soc. Bull., 45: 719-724. https://doi.org/10.1002/wsb.1223
Lori Phinney (2020). Long-term decline in bat activity using passive acoustic monitoring and an equipment correction factor in Nova Scotia, Canada. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16390
Guest blog submitted by Danielle Latendresse, A/Nature Legacy Public Relations, Parks Canada
This guest blog is a featured story in our Bat Monthly newsletter of February 2022. Click here to see the full newsletter.