When Brown Property Preservation Society president Tom Whitfield put a call out for someone to build two bat houses for the Heritage Forest, Chris Treadwell immediately volunteered.
Except Treadwell thought he was making birdhouses.
The Brown Property Preservation Society, which manages the Heritage Forest in Qualicum Beach, started a project last year to provide additional habitats for bats in the forest. Whitfield said bats are experiencing a decline in North America due to white-nose syndrome, a fungi that has decimated the population.
According to the BC Community Bat Program, white-nose syndrome is harmless to humans, but is “responsible for the deaths of millions of insect-eating bats.” It was first detected in Washington State in March, 2016.
As of March, 2018, BC Community Bat Program states no white-nose syndrome has been reported in the province, but Whitfield said it could potentially spread to the Island.
In May of 2017, the society decided to have two bat houses built to monitor bat activity. However, Treadwell said he thought he was being asked to make bird houses, which he thought wouldn’t be that difficult.
But a week later, Treadwell said, he discovered he had offered to make bat houses.
Whitfield said he researched what is required for suitable bat habitat and found the rocket box design. The bat house has four chambers, he said, which will allow the bats access from the lower edge. There are slats cut in the wood every three-quarters of an inch to allow the bats to crawl up.
The bat houses, Whitfield said, need to be in the open so the bats can find them.
“If we put that house in that forest, they’re never going to find it because they’re flying around in the open looking for bugs.”
The society, with the help of the Town of Qualicum Beach, had one of the two bat houses installed last week, just outside of the Heritage Forest along Hemsworth Road. The second bat house will be installed in the forest in the meadow area.
Cam Purdon, town superintendent of public works, parks and buildings, said the total cost of the bat houses, the concrete pads and the poles is about $2,000. The Brown Property Preservation Society paid for the two houses, which cost $250.
Whitfield said the society will monitor the houses over time to see if any bats show up.
“We’ll know (if there are bats) because we’ll see the poop droppings over time,” he said. “It could take up to 10 years for bats to show up and use that.”