July 10, 2018: Tonight we made a new sighting: a northern myotis!
Our Native Bat Conservation Program team captured several northern myotis (bats) flying around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The northern myotis is one of three species in the myotis genus in Ontario and one of four endangered bats in Ontario, three of which are also federally endangered species in Canada. The northern myotis are a forest specialist, as they are a species that roost in trees and forage within the tree cover. They are also Ontario’s only gleaning species of bat, meaning they pick their prey off of leaves, as well as catch flying insects.
Its protected status is due to extreme declining numbers of the northern myotis, and other bat species, across North America. These population declines are caused primarily by White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that affects cave-hibernating bats. These native bats are also at risk as a result of habitat loss and the rising number of wind turbines.
There is very little data available on the distribution or health of northern myotis populations in Ontario. The confirmed presence of a breeding population that is successfully producing offspring suggests that despite the threat of WNS they are still hanging on. Due to the proximity of this population to an urban area, the Zoo’s NBCP is also learning about their interaction with urbanization, which is important as the expanding GTA risks impacting their habitat. By tracking the bats to understand their foraging area and roosts, we can help ensure suitable habitat for these bats is maintained in the future, keeping them safe. The identified population can also be monitored on an ongoing basis, to see how they continue to fare. The team will continue to trap and track bats around the GTA as the summer progresses, and are hoping to determine whether little brown bats are breeding at the Zoo site.
Bats are very important for the health of our ecosystems and the more we learn about their population trends and habitat needs, the more we can do to save them.