The Yukon is a tough place to be a bat

Biologist Piia Kukka setting up a harp trap to capture bats from a bat house maternity colony.

The winters are long, cold, and dry, while summers are brief and cool. Yukon experiences “midnight sun” during summer, which is challenging for nocturnal species. Few bat species are adapted to high latitude environments. While white nose syndrome has not reached the Yukon, conservation challenges exist, including climate warming and its associated changes to the boreal forest, as well as increasing human developments. Research is essential to inform the conservation of Yukon’s bats.
In partnership with many others (particularly Brian Slough, Robert Barclay, Mary Reid, Christina Davy, and Carrie McClelland) we conduct research, monitoring, and stewardship for Yukon bats. Currently, we are studying the effects of the human footprint on bat habitat selection. Other research has focused on climate change; for example, how increasing forest fires and insect outbreaks have altered bat habitat, and how changing weather patterns affect growth and survival. Annually, we monitor a number of maternity colonies to assess long-term trends in colony size, health, and reproduction. Lastly, we work with communities to erect bat houses for maternity colonies at risk of eviction.
There is still much to discover about the ecology and conservation of Yukon bats, including habitat needs, roosting ecology, migration and hibernation, parasitology and physiology. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with others to address these knowledge gaps, particularly by combining datasets (or collecting new data/samples) to elucidate broad-scale patterns.

Biologist Julie Thomas setting up an acoustic detector on the banks of the Yukon River.

Submitted by Julie Thomas, Thomas Jung, and Piia Kukka


This featured story was included in our Bat Monthly Chauves-souris Mensuelles newsletter of February 2020. You can find the full newsletter here.

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