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McIntosh Perry

McIntosh Perry leads the way, as two bat species added to Species at Risk list

McIntosh Perry is going batty – in a protective way. Two bat species have recently been added to the roster of Species at Risk in Ontario and McIntosh Perry is at the forefront of surveying for these species.

he Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) were listed as endangered in Ontario in January 2013. As such, these bat species are now afforded protection in the province, guarding the species and their habitats.

Chris Heffernan, a fish and wildlife biologist with McIntosh Perry’s Kingston office, said this new addition to the Species at Risk list could have affects for many industries across the province. As such, he said McIntosh Perry has the training and expertise to carry out the required assessments to determine if bats are present and the individual species on site.

“McIntosh Perry is forward-thinking in that way,” he said. “We’re actively getting involved with this and that’s important.”

Heffernan said the bat’s population decline is related to a non-native fungal disease, called white-nose syndrome. Bats residing in Ontario have no defence to this disease, which affects their respiratory systems, he said. Under the Endangered Species Act of 2007, two habitat features used by these bat species are now protected: hibernacula and maternity colonies.

While each species has a different habitat preference for its maternity colonies, the bat hibernacula are often located in porous limestone rock, mine shafts and caves. The Northern Myotis is also known to overwintering in small crevices or boreholes.

Heffernan said the species are so new to the list that a regulated method of surveying has not yet been established by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Even so, he said current methodologys are a good starting point, focusing on the protection of these maternity colonies and hibernacula. Heffernan said that Ontario now has the unique challenge of identifying the bat right down to the species because the level of protection varies according to the species.

Bat species are challenging to detect but emit a specific ultrasonic sound signature while hunting. Their presence can be recorded using acoustic monitoring, coupled with possible visual monitoring. He noted this type of monitoring is effective, but the surveyor must be trained to know which species is being recorded, since not all local bat species are on the Species at Risk list.

“Until now, no one has been forced to get it down to knowing the individual species,” he said. That’s where the expertise at McIntosh Perry comes in.

Heffernan recently completed bat-detection training with specialized monitoring echo-location software, which allows him to detect species type during field work. This new technology permits the recording of ultra-sonic information and, in most cases, identification of bat species. This is valuable in terms of knowing what type of bat is on site and if it is protected or not.

“We have the advantage of understanding the software required to allow us to pin point the bat species in surveying,” he said. Ontario is unique in North America for the level of protection it offers its threatened wildlife. Outside of Ontario, Heffernan said few provinces or states have adopted such an iron clad protection act.

Heffernan noted that two additional bat species are also on the Species-at-Risk radar, and he believes they will also reach protected status. The Eastern Small Footed Myotis (Myotis leibii) and the Tri-coloured Bat (Perimyotis subflavus) have recently been assessed by the MNR and may soon be added to Ontario’s Species at Risk list due to white-nose syndrome.

Heffernan notes that this recent bat protection has the potential to affect countless properties and industries in Ontario. “Bats may still be common and wide-spread in some areas, so this new listing could affect a lot of people,” he said. “It’s good for people to know that this is something they should be aware of.”

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