20 April 2011

Deadly bat disease likely to strike P.E.I.

CBC News

It is probably only a matter of time before a disease decimating bats in the United States reaches Prince Edward Island, says a wildlife pathologist.

Bats in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are being threatened by white-nosed syndrome, a fungal disease that kills bats while they hibernate in large groups in caves. In caves infected in the U.S.—50 to 90 per cent of the bats have died.

Scott McBurney of the Atlantic Veterinary College believes it is just a matter of time before the disease affects bats on P.E.I. McBurney told CBC News Tuesday little is known about where P.E.I. bats overwinter, but it's possible they could migrate to neighbouring provinces.

"If that is the case then those bats will likely be exposed and potentially bring the fungus to our province as well in coming back … during the summer season," he said.

McBurney said there are ways people can spot bats that may have the disease. If people find dead bats or bats exhibiting unusual behaviour, such as flying around in the daytime, he is asking them to call the AVC.

Don McAlpine, a zoologist at the New Brunswick Museum, said some population modeling studies have shown the disease could lead to the extinction of the little brown bat.