The Bats of Happy Valley Forest and Pottageville Swamp
Big brown bat (Photo by Brock Fenton)
Ontario’s only winged mammal
Bats are an important part of the ecosystem. All of Ontario’s bats eat insects, which in turn helps manage a healthy insect population. Ontario has eight species of bats that depend on mature forests, wetlands and a healthy insect population.
Bats face many threats, including human persecution, habitat loss and disease. Four out of eight species of Ontario bats are endangered due to white-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS is caused by a fungus, which grows on the bats’ faces and wings. It affects bats that use caves to hibernate and causes them to become more active — burning the fat they need to survive the winter.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is working to help protect native bat species through monitoring, public awareness and by directly protecting their habitat.
Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) (Photo by Brock Fenton)
- Approximately one in four mammal species in the world is a bat, making them the second largest group of mammals, after rodents.
- Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind and can see quite well. Some species have better vision than we do.
- For a relatively small mammal, they are very long-lived. Their life span can be measured in decades. Some bats have been known to survive past 40!
- The hoary bat is Ontario’s largest bat and weighs about 30 grams — a little more than an AA battery.
- The eastern red bat, hoary bat and silver-haired bat fly to the southern U.S. for the winter.
Bat myths busted
Bats get a lot of bad press, but they really are harmless. Here are the facts to bust a few common myths:
MYTH: Bats will invade your house.
FACT: Bats will NOT invade your house.
- Bats cannot create openings in buildings or chew your belongings. They only enter buildings through existing holes or cracks.
- If a bat has flown into your house, stay calm — it doesn’t want to be there. It is lost and scared.
- Open windows and doors to help it find its way out.
- Call a wildlife rescue centre (such as, Toronto Wildlife Centre).
- If the bat has landed somewhere and you can reach it, cover it with a box and then carefully slide something flat underneath the box to contain the bat. Release the bat outside.
MYTH: Bats droppings are poisonous.
FACT: Bat droppings are NOT poisonous.
- Bat (and bird) droppings (guano) generally pose a low risk to human health. If you encounter a large accumulation of droppings, it’s best to not disturb it as it could harbour fungi, which can be harmful.
MYTH: Bats carry disease.
FACT: Bats rarely transmit disease.
- Bats can carry rabies, though likely only a small proportion of individuals do.
- Rabies is a risk only if you come into direct contact with bats (and other wild mammals), which is why it is recommended that you not handle bats and other wild mammals without proper training and permits.
- Rabies is a very serious disease, but 100 per cent treatable when addressed quickly. If you have come into direct contact with a bat or another wild mammal, visit a medical clinic immediately to seek treatment.
MYTH: Bats will fly into your hair.
FACT: Bats will NOT fly into your hair.
- Bats are harmless. They avoid human contact at all times and are not aggressive.
Help us protect our furry fliers by learning more about the bats of Happy Valley Forest and Pottageville Swamp!
NCC has partnered with the Toronto Zoo’s Native Bat Conservation Program to monitor bats in Happy Valley Forest and Pottageville Swamp. Through this partnership, we are trying to learn more about Ontario’s bats to help us better protect their habitat. We invite you to report your sightings through iNaturalist.
- Become an advocate for bats and other species. Educate others on the importance of bats and help change negative public perceptions.
- If you come across an injured bat (or any animal), call the nearest wildlife rescue centre. Do not handle wildlife directly.
- Help protect bat habitat by volunteering for or supporting organizations like NCC.