How to create a bat-friendly space in your own backyard

·3 min read
It can be hard to spot bats, but that doesn't mean you're not helping them. (Jordi Segers/Canadian Bat Box Project - image credit)
It can be hard to spot bats, but that doesn't mean you're not helping them. (Jordi Segers/Canadian Bat Box Project - image credit)

It's Bat Week in Canada, and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative is offering some tips on how to make your property comfortable for these busy mosquito eaters, the world's only flying mammal.

There are three endangered species of bat on P.E.I. The little brown bat has only recently encountered trouble with the spread of white-nose syndrome, which is estimated to have killed more than 90 per cent of the species in the Maritimes.

Jordi Segers of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative said it is not difficult to help bats, but because they are nocturnal it may be difficult to see the difference you are making.

"People can help bats in so many different ways," said Segers.

"Bats are often hidden from our eyes, but you can help bats and you might not even see the bats, but you can just rest assured that you are helping them."

A place to live

Don't be too quick to take down dying trees.

"We tend to think, 'oh, they're ugly, we're going to take them down,' but those are actually trees that offer very good roosting spots for these bats," said Segers.

"If there's no risk of those trees falling over anytime soon, but they look a little gnarly with holes and cavities in them. Those are great for bats."

If your property has a group of trees on it that's ideal, because they like to hunt in open spaces, but a group of trees can provide shelter if a predatory owl passes.

And speaking of predators, if you have a cat try to keep it inside around dusk and dawn. Cats kill a lot of bats, and these are the most likely time they might catch them.

Something to eat

Bats eat flying insects, which you can attract by growing the right plants around your property.

"If you plant things like native wildflowers of different colours, fragrances and shapes, especially pale flowers that are easily visible at night, that actually attracts a bunch of insects like moths that bats would be attracted to," said Segers.

Jordi Segers/Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative
Jordi Segers/Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative

American fly honeysuckle, fireweed and primrose will all attract the kinds of insects favoured by bats.

"You're basically creating a bed and breakfast for bats between the trees that are roosting spots and the flowers that attract breakfast for the bats," he said.

A place to roost

Bat boxes have become very popular in recent years, but researchers have found it is not easy to attract bats into your box.

But they have been learning more about how to do it.

Erin Miller
Erin Miller

The ideal box should be relatively large, perhaps up to a metre across, and it should have several chambers. It works better to have a couple of boxes, one facing the sunrise and one facing the sunset.

"Bats can move between these different boxes, and if one of them gets too hot in the sun, they can move to the other one. Or if it gets too cold, they have a choice of where they can roost," said Segers.

P.E.I.'s bats are hibernating now, but Segers said it is still a good time to be getting your property ready for when they emerge in the spring.

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