‘Bats: Plight or Flight’, March 15

On Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm. the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will offer the sixth presentation of the current season, which will totally reflect the theme “When Things Go Bump In The Night”. This event will take place in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario.

Our speaker for the evening will be Mike Anissimoff and he will lead us into the dark, mysterious, and threatened world of bats, a creature synonymous with ‘things that go bump in the night’! Mike has spent five years with the Canadian Wildlife Service monitoring the abundance and distribution of migratory bat and bird populations in relation to wind energy development in Ontario. He now leads the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s programming for the conservation of Canada’s bat population. Mr. Anissimoff’s presentation is entitled “Bats Aren’t Scary, but Extinction Is”.

The symbolism of the bat is one that is entwined in ancient folklore. The legends of vampires such as Dracula in the region of Transylvania continue to inspire our imaginations and provide the story line for books, comics and movies. In Native folklore, bats were believed to be evil spirits, but in Chinese culture, the bat is deemed to be a lovely creature associated with happiness and longevity. In pre-Columbian culture the bat was displayed as one of their legendary Gods. In today’s society, the bat is incorporated into the Coat of Arms of Barcelona and many Spanish soccer teams use the bat as their emblem. In literature, bats have been portrayed in some fascinating forms, such as in Watership Down and Silverwing and in our modern age of cinema, who among us will ever forget the legendary superhero of the night, Batman!

In our ‘real world’, insects are the main diet of most bat species, although some eat fruit, nectar, fish and other vertebrates. Three species of bats drink blood, none of which are found in Canada. As the primary predator of night-flying insects such as moths, beetles, and mosquitoes, bats can devour hundreds of insects in just one hour and in a single night, can consume 30 to 50 percent of their body weight. A pregnant female bat will consume 100% of her body weight in one night. Bats therefore do provide a significant protective service for our gardens, crops, and forests. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that bats provide insect control services worth a few billion dollars annually!

Bats evolved between 54.8 and 65 million years ago and comprise nearly a quarter of known mammal species. They are second only to rodents in terms of diversity. Currently, over 1300 species of bats worldwide have been discovered, with the potential for many more. In Canada, there are 19 distinct species, 16 of which are found in British Columbia. Bats use high-frequency sound waves to navigate and communicate. They send out pulses of sound and the returning echoes enable them to detect obstacles in their path. So skilled are these creatures, that they can avoid something as fine as a human hair! So much for the long-standing myth that if we’re not careful when out at night, a bat could get caught in our hair! And if you’re said to be “blind as a bat”, you’re really not blind at all…

In his presentation, Mike Anissimoff will describe some major threats to the survival of many bat species, including the Little Brown Bat, which is found locally. White-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungus, has killed upwards to seven million resident and hibernating bats in Canada and the U.S. combined. The additional mortality associated with habitat loss, wind turbines and pesticides has further impaired survival rates and resulted in unsustainable population growth. Habitat loss has promoted a continued reliance on anthropogenic (human-made) structures for roosting sites for some bat species. “Interactions between bats and humans is inevitable and cohabitation is important. Wildlife control companies play a major role in managing and mitigating the impacts of these interactions”, states Mr. Anissimoff. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is working to increase public and industry awareness of bats, stress the need for a better understanding of their ecology and contribute to their recovery. This talk will explore the basic species-specific life cycle intricacies of our local bats and apply them to the aforementioned concepts.

Please join us for this interesting and informative evening. Doors will open at 7 pm. Refreshments will be available throughout the evening. A discussion will follow the presentation. There is a non-member fee of $5 and no charge for youth under 18. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at glbradley@icloud.com.