Bats get a bad rap, thanks to the tradition in the horror story genre which, through the last century and beyond, has portrayed them as mini vampires, on the side of evil, that live in caves and come out at dusk to drink blood, using their fangs to prey on the unsuspecting.
The recent discovery of a bat cave in Banff National Park — the first one to be found in either Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Park — is part of a growing movement to look beyond age-old superstition and offer bats help as their numbers continue to dwindle in response to this negative public attitude as well as habitat loss and other environmental factors.
Another group working in the Rockies region has made huge strides in bat awareness over the last decade in the Kootenays.
The Kootenay Community Bat Project, established in 2004, is made up of a panel of bat experts dedicated to bat conservation in southeastern B.C., and works directly with residents who have bats in their buildings (visit www.kootenaybats.com for a wealth of information).
Founder and coordinating biologist Juliet Craig has had a huge impact, cultivating relationships with Kootenay communities to educate the public and stop people from exterminating bats from their homes, actively killing them or inadvertently destroying their roost sites (by holding bat house building workshops to teach homeowners how to provide bats with a roosting alternative). There are 19 species of bats commonly found in Canada, with 16 occurring in B.C. (all 16 species of bats in B.C. are protected from being killed and harassed under the Provincial Wildlife Act), of which at least 11 are found in the Kootenays, several of which are listed as vulnerable and threatened, including the little brown myotis, which Parks Canada staff believe to be the species inhabiting the Banff bat cave.
Nowhere else in Canada is bat conservation so important or necessary.