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Bat populations dwindling in Eastern Canada

Digital writers

Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 2:12 PM - Bats have a reputation for being scary but their declining numbers in Nova Scotia and across eastern Canada is truly frightening - Nathan Coleman looks at a possible cause.

Bat populations are rapidly declining in Nova Scotia and across eastern Canada, which has researchers very concerned. 

Caves are sitting empty and the cause is a fungus that originated south of the border.

It's believed a cold-loving fungus that was introduced to North America back in 2006 in New York State made its way to Canada between 2010 and 2012.

After tests were conducted at some locations in Nova Scotia, it was found that on average, populations had declined by 94 per cent.

Scientists believe the infection originated in Europe and was brought here by a tourist who had visited a bat cave. Humans can transmit the infection by moving from cave to cave.

Bats in Europe have not been affected by the fungus but in North America, they develop white spots on their wings and nose during hibernation.

The infection causes bats to wake up frequently during the winter, which creates exhaustion to the point of death. 

So far the fungus has been reported in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario. 

In Quebec, some caves that housed up to 5,000 bats now sit almost empty.

While it is unclear what role bats play in Canada's agriculture industry, many experts agree that they are important in managing insect populations. 

Some studies in the United States show bats save the agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year. 

Managing insect populations ensures crops could be saved from infestation.

Bats could also potentially slow-down the spread of West Nile by controlling mosquito populations. 

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