Microbats

Species Status:
Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus): Endangered in Canada
Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis): Endangered in Canada
Tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus): Endangered in Canada

 Action Required: Assess feasibility of conservation breeding as recovery tool

In 2014, sudden and dramatic declines of these three species triggered an emergency Endangered listing. The cause? A devastating fungus attacking the tiny bats as they hibernate.

These small, brown-haired bats are typically four to eight centimetres long and weigh about as much as a loonie or toonie. They are nocturnal mammals that can squeeze through spaces as tiny as six millimetres across, allowing them to access many of their roosting areas. Bats eat insects and can play an important role in getting rid of some bugs that are considered as pests in forestry and agriculture.

As their name suggests, northern long-eared bats have long ears compared to the other two species, while tri-colored bats are distinguished by their reddish, yellowish and brownish fur and a slow, undulating flight pattern that resembles a moth or butterfly.

Little brown bats prefer to roost during the day in trees and buildings. Attics, barns and abandoned buildings often serve as ideal sites for raising their young during the summer months. Northern long-eared bats make their home under loose bark and in tree cavities of boreal forests. Tri-colored bats will also roost in the tree cavities and foliage of shrubby areas and open forests with a nearby water source. All three species usually hibernate in humid caves or abandoned mines.

Little brown bats and northern long-eared bats can be found across Canada, while tri-colored bats occupy parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Bats have long faced habitat destruction and human persecution over concerns with noise, hygiene and diseases like rabies. However, a much graver danger has emerged recently: a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome. Introduced from Europe, the fungus was first identified in North America bats during the winter of 2006-2007.

The deadly and highly contagious disease grows in humid, cold environments like caves, causing a white growth on the muzzle, ears and wings of bats while they hibernate. The fungus creates deep lesions in the wings of infected bats, reducing their ability to retain water during hibernation. This means the bats must wake up more frequently to drink, which in turn can deplete their fat stores and lead to starvation.

Recommended Recovery Actions

The proposed Federal Recovery strategy for these three species of microbats calls for a number of conservation actions, including maintaining a white-nose syndrome surveillance program, investigating techniques to prevent or treat white-nose syndrome and conserving and enhancing microbat habitat.

What we are doing

Find out how Wildlife Preservation Canada helps save  Canadian mammals, including Canada’s microbats, and how you can help.