Ontario’s native bats are on the decline. Since 2012, four of the province’s eight species — little brown myotis, eastern small-footed myotis, northern myotis and tri-coloured bat — have been listed as endangered, mainly as a result of a condition known as white-nose syndrome. (Three of these species are also listed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.)
White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans that grows on the bodies of hibernating bats, leading to dehydration. Thirsty bats are roused from hibernation too early, and die from starvation before they can replenish their fat reserves. Millions of bats across eastern North America have succumbed to this syndrome — a severe blow to populations already challenged by slow reproductive rates, habitat loss and wind turbines.
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) environmental monitoring group teamed up with the Toronto Zoo Native Bat Conservation Program in 2017 to learn more about the regional distribution and general ecology of local bat species. This partnership was made possible by a grant from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program to expand monitoring, research and outreach efforts for Ontario’s bats. Prior to this, TRCA had partnered with the Royal Ontario Museum to study bats within the Scarborough Waterfront Project study area.
Finished setting up song metres in our northern regions to confirm calling start dates for breeding frogs & breeding bat species diversity! pic.twitter.com/bobdnZWk2g
— TRCA Monitoring (@TRCA_Monitoring) March 27, 2017
The recordings are downloaded monthly and decoded by Toby Thorne from the Toronto Zoo, who uses specialized software to identify the different bat species sounds.
So far the data show that there are several bat species at the monitoring sites, but whether they are breeding in the area is yet to be determined. To learn more about the latter, the Toronto Zoo will use trapping methods later this year to determine how species use the various sites.
In 2018, TRCA set up several more recorders in urban and urbanizing zones to gain a greater regional understanding of these enigmatic airborne mammals. This new information will add to the data collected since 2015 in Rouge National Urban Park by the Toronto Zoo and Parks Canada.
What You Can Do
Bats play an important role in our ecosystem, helping to protect crops and forests by controlling insect populations. Discover what you can do to help bats in your area:
- Read the Toronto Zoo Bat Conservation Guide.
- Learn how to build a bat box on your property at the Canadian Wildlife Service Help the Bats site.
- Sign up for the Bat ID and Survey Methods workshop at Kortright Centre for Conservation on Tuesday July 17, 2018.
- Attend the Toronto Zoo’s Bat Awareness Days on Saturday August 11 and Sunday August 12, 2018, or Bat Night on Saturday, August 11, 2018.
Through scientific data collection, TRCA’s Environmental Monitoring and Data Management team tell the stories about the changes affecting the natural areas and watercourses within our regions. For more information, please visit our webpage, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our Monitoring Matters e-newsletter, or visit our YouTube playlist.
VIEW THE MONITORING TEAM’S 2017 PROGRESS REPORT