The Native Council of P.E.I. has discovered bats — some endangered, some not known on the Island previously — on property it is looking to turn into a wildlife preserve.
"We were excited," council president and chief Lisa Cooper told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier. "We always talk about conservation, preservation, within the Indigenous community....
You lose a species, you can't bring it back - Lisa Cooper, Native Council of P.E.I.
"You lose a species, you can't bring it back."
The council used a federal grant to hire biologist Rosemary Curley to examine the land in Victoria West and determine what species are on it, what species there might be at risk and how that risk might be mitigated.
She used information on plant species gathered in a survey done in cooperation with the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre. As well, she examined data from the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative's detectors in the area that were designed to listen for the echo-location clicks of bats.
The project found evidence of little brown bats, which are endangered by white-nose syndrome, hoary bats and what could also be silver-haired bats or big brown bats or both.
Neither of those last two have been recorded on P.E.I. before, but they are known to breed in New Brunswick.
"There's a high diversity of bats on P.E.I. More than we ever knew about," said Curley.
"We had good luck."
Curley expects there are bat populations across P.E.I. but in low densities following the devastation of white-nose syndrome.
There are also plans to see if the land is home to plants used in Mi'kmaq traditional medicines. If there are any, Cooper said the council would like to both harvest them and use the site to educate Indigenous youth.
"We have to be cautious of what species are there so that we're not ruining their habitat, so we can increase a healthy habitat," she said.
"[It's] not only about bats, but birds and plants. So it's building a strong foundation towards a community program, and we have to make sure that our foundation is knowledgeable, both with Aboriginal traditional knowledge and modern knowledge."
The council would eventually like to build a trail system on the property, but more work needs to be done to determine where those trails could go to avoid harming the environment.
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