'Completely overwhelming': Sask. wildlife rehab takes in hundreds of bats found during curling rink renovation
SASKATOON -- Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is caring for hundreds of bats discovered during renovations to a curling rink in Unity.
DTS Roofing and Bat Services, based out of Cut Knife, transported 386 bats to the Saskatoon non-profit organization on Feb. 5. Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation’s Executive Director Jan Shadick, said about 63 bats didn’t survive due to the stress and overcrowding from transportation.
“It has been really, I would say hectic, except that it’s actually really peaceful feeding the bats,” Shadick said, adding it’s likely she’ll be receiving more bats as renovations continue.
DLS Roofing and Bat Services owner Dave Pentecost estimated there could be a couple thousand bats hibernating underneath the insulation.
“Bats can get into a building when it’s being built brand new, and then they start multiplying yearly,” he said. “Bats can live up to 40 years, so every year, they’ll give birth to one or two pups.”
Pentecost said this isn’t the first time he’s uncovered bats during a renovation. Last year, his company pulled 168 bats out of a 900 sq. ft. house. The curling rink in Unity is about 10,400 sq. ft., he said.
Pentecost said he took his bat-services certification in the United States and has worked with biologists across Western Canada. When the bats are in hibernation, he said they can be easily moved into transportation bins without hurting them.
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is seeking donations to care for the colony until they can be released in the spring, when bats can start feeding off of bugs again.
Shadick said most of the bats remain hibernating in bins in a temperature-controlled cellar. About 70 of them require extra care because they’re wounded or underweight.
“We warm them up and then we feed them mealworm, after mealworm, after mealworm until they sort of say ‘Okay, I’m done.’ Once they’re done, we weigh them again to see how much they actually ate.”
Shadick said people are often afraid of bats, referring to them as “flying rats.” However, Shadick said it’s important to protect them, otherwise bug populations would spike.
“This particular town has obviously been providing shelter for these bats for years,” Shadick said, adding she hopes to build a wintering bat box for them in the future.
“If we build it, and they stay there, then they won’t be inside of this building and they won’t be causing any disturbances or problems for the people that live there, but they will still be able to provide their beneficial service of eating their mosquitos,” she said.
In a Facebook post, the rehab centre described the effort as "completely overwhelming."
After the bats came into their care, volunteers worked an eight-hour day examining weighing and hydrating the bats according to the post.
It can take up to six hours daily to hand-feed the bats that are underweight.