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Alberta Biosphere Reserve Builds Resilience for Bats

Posted September 16, 2020 by LSC

The Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association (WBRA) has been hard at work to assist the endangered little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) with their successful Building Resilience for Bats program. Through research and engagement with landowners in southern Alberta, the WBRA are raising awareness to save this struggling species.

Photo: This historic barn, dating back to 1913, is one of the roost locations supporting non-reproductive bats. Photo credit Elizabeth Anderson.

Located in the southwest corner of Alberta, the Waterton Biosphere Reserve (WBR) is one of two biosphere reserves in Alberta (there are 18 across Canada). The WBR encompasses some of the most spectacular and ecologically diverse landscapes in the Canadian Rockies and prairie grasslands.

The WBRA is a non-profit organization focused on linking biodiversity conservation to sustainable human use of resources within the WBR region.

Over the past eight years, the Watershed Stewardship Grant (WSG) has supported several projects led by the WBRA including their Wetland Field Day for students and creation of Creek Explorer Kits. Most recently, the WBRA received funding to support their efforts to assist the little brown bat – a species in trouble across Canada.

Bats are an important part of the ecosystem in the WBR however many bat species are threatened by habitat loss and white-nose syndrome – a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America since first noted in 2006, with some colonies showing mortality rates of 90–100%.

In the face of these drastic challenges, WBR began their Building Resilience for Bats project in 2019 to work with local landowners to support bat populations through habitat stewardship.

The intent of this project was to increase awareness among landowners and residents of the WBR about the threats facing local bat populations and how their stewardship actions could help conserve important habitat for the bats. Through active roost counts and discussions with landowners, the WBRA encouraged stewardship practices which will benefit not only bats, but many other species, particularly insectivorous and riparian/wetland dependent species, as well as enhancing water quality and quantity objectives.

The program has garnered support from organizations such as Patagonia, Tamarack and Parks Canada and was even featured in a CBC article in 2019. But the project’s most notable success has been the active interest and participation of local landowners in assisting bat populations through habitat stewardship.

“A total of 21 WBR landowners contacted us about bats and bat habitat,” shares Elizabeth Anderson, Conservation Technician with the WBRA. “As a result, seven roost counts were completed with landowners and many more great discussions were had about bat biology, threats and habitat needs.”

Elizabeth and the team at WBRA credit strong landowner engagement and funder support for the success of their program.

“The WSG was one of our primary funding sources for this project and provided necessary funds to allow us to access additional grants requiring matching funds,” adds Nora Manners, WBRA Executive Director. “Without WSG support, this work would not have been possible!”

Learn more about the Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association’s Building Resiliency for Bats project.

DYK? You too can assist bat populations and create habitat and roosting sites in your own backyard, learn more with information from the Alberta Community Bat Program.

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