little brown myotis bat

Bats

Description

Bats are important to global ecosystems. There are about 1,200 bat species worldwide, more than one-fifth of the world's mammal species.

In the Northwest Territories (NWT), all bats eat insects. Some can consume their own body weight in insects each night. Bats are nocturnal which means they sleep during the day and are most active at night. Bats rely on echolocation (high-frequency sounds) more than their eyes to find food and move through the night skies.

Habitat

In the summer, NWT bats roost (rest) in tree hollows, under tree bark, among the leaves of trees, in caves, in rock crevices, and in buildings. In the winter, some NWT bats migrate south to warmer areas. Other species stay and hibernate in caves or deep crevices.

In the NWT, it is illegal to destroy known bat roosts or places where bats hibernate. If convicted, you could face penalties under the Wildlife Act. If you need to remove a roost, please contact ENR for a free permit.

Bats in buildings

Buildings and other human-made structures can offer safe shelters for some bat species to roost (rest) in, and can be especially important for bats in the north.  A building with bats may be home to a ‘maternity colony’ - a group of female bats raising their young that return to use the same roost year after year. Protecting maternity colonies is an essential component of bat conservation.

Although buildings can provide good conditions for roosting, bats in buildings are vulnerable to human-caused disturbance and injury. Got Bats? NWT Guide for Managing Bats in Buildings provides information to help you stay safe around bats that are roosting in your buildings and help bats stay safe around people. By following these guidelines, you can help conserve bats in the NWT.

Bat houses

If bats have to be excluded from a building, putting up a bat house nearby can help reduce the negative effects on a bat colony by providing a safe, alternate roosting site. Bat houses are usually wooden boxes that can be installed on a tall post in your yard or other open area, or on the side of a building. Not all commercially available bat houses are suitable for bats in the NWT. For plans and installation instructions for bat houses that are appropriate for use in the NWT, visit these links:

Life cycle

Bats are sensitive to population decline because they have the slowest reproductive cycles of mammals their size on earth. Many bat species only produce one pup per year.

Distribution

For the first time, in 2010, a major hibernaculum, the place where bats spend the winter in a dormant state, was discovered in the South Slave Region. More than 3,000 little brown myotis were observed in the cave in a dormant state. Before 2006, only three bat species were known to live in the NWT. There are now seven confirmed species and one suspected for a total of eight bat species in the NWT. Bats are widespread throughout the southern Northwest Territories.

White-nose syndrome

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease associated with mass die-offs of hibernating bats in eastern North America. Although it is spreading rapidly, WNS has not been found in the NWT. Due to this imminent and serious threat, two NWT bat species, the Little Brown Myotis and the Northern Myotis, have been listed as Endangered in Canada and Special Concern in the NWT.

Report all bat sightings

If you see a bat:

Resources