Six years of recording and analyzing the sounds made by bats in P.E.I. National Park has revealed more biodiversity in the park than was previously suspected.
The park first set up acoustic detectors, which record the echolocation calls bats use to hunt for food, in 2015 and has continued every year since. This year officials noticed eastern red bats in the recordings this year.
“Finding any new species is exciting, and just knowing that there’s another species of bat within Prince Edward Island really increases our knowledge of the biodiversity,” Kim Gamble, a resource management officer with Parks Canada, told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.
Parks Canada is analyzing the calls with the help of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, and their detection skills have been improving since they started in 2015. Having noticed the red bat this year, they went back and listened to recordings from previous years and heard the red bat there too, confirming this year’s seasonal visitors were not a one-off appearance.
Gamble said it’s possible that they are hearing other species on the recordings that they haven’t yet identified.
“There’s also a couple of other species where their calls overlap a bit more and there’s less certainty in what those species are,” she said.
“But with the eastern red bat it’s distinct enough from the other species that we can tell, through acoustic detection that it is in fact the eastern red bat.”
No sighting of the red bat has been confirmed yet, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been seen. With the bats flying at night it is next to impossible to tell them apart unless they are captured.
Disease killing bats
The population of little brown bats on the Island has been decimated by white-nose syndrome.
Red bats can carry the fungus that causes the disease, said Gamble, but there is no evidence that the population is being affected. Because red bats roost alone in trees there is less opportunity for the fungus to spread than in little brown bats, which can roost together in colonies of thousands.
The sighting of any bat is important on the Island right now, said Gamble. People who see bats should let the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative know, she said.
More from CBC P.E.I.