Members of a society that protects bats are anxiously waiting to see if this season brings the arrival in B.C. of a deadly fungal disease.

Fourteen species of bats in the Okanagan will soon be waking up from hibernation spots such as caves across the lake from Peachland. Thousands of them are expected to roost once again in the attic of the town’s visitor information centre.

“Last year, we were totally clean of the disease,” Doris Muhs of the Bat Education and Ecological Protect Society said Sunday.

“Once they come back, usually in the middle of April, we can check their condition then,” Muhs said.

White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats across North America. The fungus, harmless to humans, was detected for the first time last year in Washington state.

The provincially-funded Community Bat Program has been monitoring reports of unusual bat activity this past winter. Collected dead bats have been sent to the Canadian Wildlife Health Centre for disease testing.

So far, no cases of white-nose syndrome have been detected in B.C., but chances of the disease being detected will increase with the end of hibernation.

“We’re asking the public to report dead bats or any sightings of daytime bat activity as soon as possible,” says Mandy Kellner of the Community Bat Program. “Reports of unusual bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.”

Although there is no cure for white-nose syndrome, experts say efforts to preserve and protect bat habitat can keep the population healthy, and can mitigate against the effects of the disease.

The bat colony in the attic of the Peachland visitor centre, formerly a schoolhouse, is believed to be one of the largest in B.C. Bats returned to the attic in mid-March last year.

Bats eat vast quantities of mosquitoes and other insects, helping protect the fruit and forestry industries.

To report daytime bat activity or dead bats, call 1-855-922-2287, ext. 13.

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