What they lack in size, these bats make up for in toughness. They are not afraid of the cold. Eastern small-footed bats don’t begin to hibernate until winter is upon us, and when they do, they choose the coldest spots in the cave with temperatures that dip below freezing. They’re also one of the first bats out of the cave in early spring.
If you hate mosquito bites, you’ll love these bats because they’re insectivorous. That means they love to snack on insects like beetles, moths, flies and, of course, mosquitoes.
Eastern small-footed bats are considered “endangered” in Ontario, which means they live in the wild but are facing imminent extinction or extirpation (extinction in a particular area). The biggest threat they face is the dreaded “white nose syndrome”, a fungus believed to have been inadvertently brought to North America from Europe.
This fungus grows in humid, cold environments just like the caves and mines where many bats hibernate. Often visible on the noses and other hairless body parts of hibernating bats, the syndrome disrupts their hibernation cycle causing them to exhaust their supply of body fat well before the spring.
After little more than two years’ of exposure to the fungus, bat populations in Ontario have dropped by more than 90 per cent at eight hibernation sites, and more than 75 per cent of sites are now considered at high risk. Worst of all, the mass die-offs leave few animals left for repopulation and with an extremely low birth rate (just one ‘pup’ per season) these bats are in a lot of trouble.
How can you help?
One way is to start a Bring Back the Wild campaign for Eastern Small-footed Bats. The donations that you and your family members collect will help the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry track bat populations and their critical habitat sites. This information will help identify important habitats that need protection and help track the spread of white-nose syndrome.