Clément Robidoux, Biologist and Conservation Coordinator
Victor Grivegnée-Dumoulin, Biologist
Almost all bat species are under threat in Canada (habitat loss, pesticides, white-nose syndrome, etc.). The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) advises the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change regarding the status of wildlife species at risk. Unfortunately, due to lack of information on bat population sizes in Canada, COSEWIC cannot accurately assess the conservation status of many bat species. Within Appalachian Corridor’s territory of action in southern Quebec, three species of bats are now listed as Endangered: the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) and Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus).
Given the catastrophic decline in bat species, Appalachian Corridor developed a project with Canada’s federal Habitat Stewardship Program to confirm their presence on key parts of our 3,500 km2 territory of action, and then prioritize our conservation efforts. As part of this project, we partnered with Conservation Chauve-Souris des Cantons-de-l’Est (CCSCE or Eastern Townships Bat Conservation), another NGO who assisted us with data collection.
In 2019, Appalachian Corridor carried out ecological surveys, including a bat inventory, on ten private properties of high ecological importance on its territory. As part of these surveys, we aim to assess the presence of different bat species, maternity roosts locations or hibernacula. In general, our ecological surveys make an exhaustive inventory of fauna and flora species, and this year was the first that we were able to confirm the presence of bats.
All inventories were conducted between June 6th and September 3rd. Two types of inventories were conducted during the summer: mobile inventories and fixed inventories. For the mobile inventories, the listening routes were carried out on 8 to 10 km transects, in a sector representing the habitat of bats. Two Echo Meter Touch Pro 2 have enabled the recording of calls. In a second step, fixed inventories were carried out on 10 properties bordering the listening routes. A SM4BAT FS Full-Spectrum Ultrasonic Recorder Song Meter was used for a minimum of 7 nights on each property.
During the following month, the analysis of the calls will be performed using Kaleidoscope software by our specialist from CCSCE; Victor GrivegnÃ©e-Dumoulin. Analysis just started, but we already confirmed the presence of many species at risk (the Little Brown Myotis, Northern Myotis and Tri-colored Bat). In the months to come, we will present the results to citizens in order to encourage the protection of these species. Appalachian Corridor will guide landowners through the right actions aiming for protecting natural shelters and foraging habitat (mature trees, wetlands, fallow land, etc.). Old buildings that can serve as roosts or maternity roosts will be targeted and their preservation will be promoted. On some properties, even larger conservation projects could emerge such has the creation of a protected land via legal conservation tools (i.e. notarial deed).
Of the 7 species detected, the Red Bat, the Silver-haired Bat and the Hoary Bat are species likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable in Quebec (MFFP, 2018). The Little Brown Myotis, the Northern Long-eared Bat, and the Tri-colored Bat have been assessed by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) and have been included in the List of “Endangered species” under the federal Species at Risk Act. Only the Big Brown Bat has no status.
The objectives of the project have been achieved. In fact, the inventories show that the environment surrounding the properties is home to bats. It will therefore be possible to sensitize the owners by showing them data collected directly in their sector.
Since many farms and woodlots border the study areas, the following recommendations from the Guide pratique pour la conservation des chauves-souris en milieu agricole designed by the Groupe Chiroptères du Québec (2016) may be presented to the owners of targeted sectors, ie:
For both farmers and other citizens, the following recommendations are to be proposed (Groupe Chiroptères du Québec, 2016):
In the months to come, we will present the results to citizens in order to encourage the protection of these species. Appalachian Corridor will guide landowners through the right actions aiming for protecting natural shelters and foraging habitat (mature trees, wetlands, fallow land, etc.). Old buildings that can serve as roosts or maternity roosts will be targeted and their preservation will be promoted. On some properties, even larger conservation projects could emerge such has the creation of a protected land via legal conservation tools (i.e. notarial deed). We also started to follow hibernacula and we will be able to present the result next spring (figure 1).
Last autumn, we started the follow-up of three possible hibernacula. All of the inventories were carried out between October 2ndand 31th, 2019. Fixed inventories were carried out in front of 3 potential hibernacula (Figure 5). A Song Meter SM4BAT FS Full-Spectrum Ultrasonic Recorder or a Song Meter SM3BAT (figure 1) were used in Sunset to sunrise mode in front of each hibernacula. The potential hibernacula were selected based on historical or opportunistic observations. No one had entered the hibernacula so as not to disturb the bats, but signs of presence were looked for at their entrance. The Québec Copper mine (Figure 2) was already known and registered as a bat hibernaculum (Québec Bat Recovery Team, 2019), but the two sites located in the Nine Holes (Nine Holes 1 (Figure 3) ) and Nine Holes 2 (Figure 4) have never been documented. These sites are located in the Green Mountains Nature Reserve and access is strictly prohibited without authorization.
The inventories of hibernacula carried out in the fall of 2019 confirmed the presence of bats in 2 of the 3 sites under study. Indeed, the presence of Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus) could be confirmed at the Quebec Copper mine every night of recording, a sonogram of complex Big Brown Bat – Silver-haired Bat was also recorded.
For the Nine Holes 1 site, several calls of Northern Long-eared Bat and Myotissp. were recorded every evening during the follow-up period. In addition, Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) was detected. Unfortunately, for the Nine Holes 2 site, no sonogram was recorded.
Among the 3 species detected, the Hoary Bat is a species likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Quebec (MFFP, 2018). The Northern Long-eared Bat has been assessed by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) and has been appended to the List of "Endangered" species governed by the Species at Risk Act of Canada. Only the Big Brown Bat has currently no status.
Indeed, Appalachian Corridor was able to confirm the presence of a new hibernacula on its territory and it constitutes the first known natural hibernacula on our territory. In addition, the exploration of the Nine Holes sector has made it possible to target several other potential hibernacula that will be targeted for follow-up in 2020. Research on the rest of the territory will be carried out to find other potential sites. An invitation has been issued to the local population via the Appalachian Corridor bulletin to identify other potential hibernacula in the territory. At this time, an owner contacted us to inform us of the presence of a potential hibernacula in his neighbor’s land. A visit will be made over the next year to validate it. Long-term monitoring of these hibernacula is planned in order to document the evolution of bat populations using these sites.