Assessing white-nose syndrome mitigation options in the Stave River Watershed

Project Year: 2020-2021

Multi-year Project

View Provincial Database Record

Little Brown bat MYLU Photo: Cori Lausen

Project Lead

Wildlife Conservation Society Canada


Coastal Region

Stave River

Project Type

Habitat-Based Actions

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Upland & Dryland

Project ID


Developing and Evaluating Bat Mitigation Strategies

This project, led by the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, will evaluate mitigation tools to reduce further impacts on bats, which face unprecedented threats, including white-nose syndrome (WNS), in the Stave Lake area. This project will use knowledge about roost conditions, overall health and reproduction, and roost-switching behaviour to test and evaluate a pilot effort to reduce the mortality rate of WNS. The WNS management strategy developed through this project could be applied widely across watersheds in BC.

Update: Innovative project aims to protect bats from white-nose syndrome

Bats in the Stave River Watershed are getting a helping hand to prepare for the inevitable arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease that has killed millions of bats in North America and is expected to arrive in British Columbia.

Bat roosts at two Stave sites have been inoculated with a probiotic-laden clay powder to protect against WNS in this project by the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada with funding from the FWCP. This past summer 325 bats were captured and sampled for probiotic bacteria—results to date confirm these beneficial bacteria are transferring to bat wings.

If successful, this pilot approach to reduce bat mortality due to WNS could be used across the province.


Final report: executive summary

The goal of the Probiotic Project is to develop and test (in captive and wild trials) a cocktail of bacteria sourced from wings of B.C. bats which inhibits the fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans, Pd) that causes white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. Specific to the West, where few bat hibernacula are known, but many maternity roosts are known for building roosting species, our project aimed to take a prophylaxis approach; the strategy is that bats will be passively inoculated at their summer roosts, incorporate the probiotic bacteria into their wing microbiomes and then travel to hibernacula where the probiotic inhibit or slow growth of Pd, slowing or preventing the progression of WNS and reducing overwinter mortality.

Our study is multi-faceted and has been staged. In 2017 we swabbed bats from across B.C. and through culturing of bacteria in the lab, challenged with Pd, isolated anti-Pd bacteria. In 2018 we conducted a pilot captive trial to confirm that Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis) can be kept in captivity successfully. Using one anti-Pd bacteria we also experimentally determined we could alter the wing microflora of bats for an extended period of time. In 2019, using the finalized probiotic (4 anti-Pd bacteria), we tested the safety of this probiotic on bat health by conducting a comprehensive summer-long captive trial (May – August), and examined the persistence of probiotic cells in several bat boxes, including an experimental bat box in real field conditions, but closed off to bats. In October 2019, we prepared bats for a hibernation trial, acclimating them to cooling conditions and on 16 November they were placed into a modified fridge where they hibernated until 21 December. During the captive trials of 2019, we developed and tested an effective application method. In 2019, we piloted the probiotic in the field.


Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database