The bat population on P.E.I. was dealt a severe blow this winter, with the presence of a devastating fungus showing up in the province.
After an Island man reported finding a bat on the deck in his backyard in early February, he reported it to provincial wildlife officials, who realized they could have a problem.
The problem is a devastating fungus known as Bat White Nose Syndrome.
The syndrome affects hibernating bats, causing them to wake up frequently during their deep sleep. Once the bat wakes, it burns extra energy, causing it to burn extra fat cells. Once the bat is awake and hungry, its food sources are limited and it can starve to death.
The disease is tearing apart bat populations on the east coast of North America, Wildlife biologist Rosemary Curley said.
“Since it was first discovered in the United States in 2006, white nose syndrome has decimated bat populations, and unfortunately there is little that can be done to protect them from this disease.”
After sending the bat away for testing, it was confirmed that it was infected with the syndrome.
It has never been a problem before on P.E.I. since it was not believed bats commonly hibernate here for the winter.
However, after the first discovery, 19 more sightings were reported from 10 locations. Eight bats were recovered and sent away for testing. Curley believes these bats will also test positive for the syndrome.
The fungus presents no danger to spread to humans, as it only grows at temperatures between six and 20 degrees Celsius. With most mammals having a body temperature around 37 degrees, humans and many other animals cannot contract it.
Still, Agriculture and Forestry officials are urging people not to touch a bat if you come across one and to continue reporting any and all sightings.