Glacier National Park Investigates Nakimu Caves for Bat's at risk and White Nose (Bat) Syndrome

Aug 02, 2013, 12:37 ET from Parks Canada

REVELSTOKE, BC, Aug. 2, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, Glacier National Park of Canada took preventive measures to bat's at risk from a devastating disease: White Nose Syndrome (WNS) - credited in eastern North America with decimating bat populations while they sleep during the winter and potentially fast tracking several bat species, like the Northern and Little Brown Bat to the endangered species list.

Parks Canada researchers and partners installed bat acoustic recorders, mats to collect bat droppings and mini data loggers in several entrances to the Nakimu Caves System in order to discover if bats use the caves and if so, when. The "bat team" also collected soil samples to determine if WNS is present.

"Bats play an important role in the ecosystem as night-time pollinators and in pest control," said Sarah Boyle, Glacier National Park Ecologist. "In order to protect species like the Little Brown Bat, we need to know two things. First, is WNS in the caves; and second, do bats use the caves. While we have no reports of bats in the caves, that doesn't mean they aren't there," she said, and "if they are, the devices we installed will record their calls and tell us what species of bat they are and when they use the caves. This will help us protect them."

The recording devices will be left in the caves for 18 months, recording all sounds. They are the same devices as those used to record whales, dolphins and birds. Mini data loggers will also be installed to record humidity and temperature as some bat species prefer to hibernate or roost in caves that are humid and above 0°C. The data collected will be used to establish base-line data on cave conditions.

Parks Canada is also working with Thompson Rivers University Microbiology student, Baylee Out to discover if WNS is in the caves. She will analyse soil samples and swabs taken from the cave to determine if the disease is present or not. Additional data collected from the samples will establish critical base-line data for the park on the microbiology of the caves.

Results from the research will inform Parks Canada how to best manage the caves and protect bats. At present, the caves' wilderness location makes them difficult to access and all visitors entering them must have a guide, special permit and adhere to strict equipment disinfection procedures.

Parks Canada protects and presents Canada's natural and cultural heritage in a network of 44 national parks, 167 national historic sites and 4 national marine conservation areas.

SOURCE Parks Canada

Image with caption: "Silas Patterson, Parks Canada researcher installs a bat acoustic recorder in the Nakimu Caves System in Glacier National Park. Results from the research will inform Parks Canada how to best manage the caves and protect bats from White Nose Syndrome (CNW Group/) (CNW Group/) (CNW Group/Parks Canada)". Image available at: