By Lesley Richardson

West Bolton and local residents have launched an ambitious initiative to come to the aid of the bat population. A special heated bat house has been installed below the eaves of Town Hall earlier this year and Town councillor Robert Chartier and others are raising money to build an additional 10 bat houses in the area to provide shelter and to help bat colonies grow and thrive.

Bats are valuable creatures that consume 600 insects per hour during the summer months, reducing the need for pesticides and playing a major role in the health of our natural surroundings. The problem is that bat populations are in serious decline because of an infection called white snout syndrome fungal infection.

The whole initiative started when West Bolton decided it had to get rid of the large population of bats living in the Town Hall attic. The Town cleaned out the attic and plugged all the holes before the migrating bats returned in the spring. To welcome the returning bats, the town constructed a heated structure on the side of Town at a cost of $700 to give mothers a warm place to nurse, boost bat populations and hopefully give local bat populations a better chance to develop resistance to the infection, as is occurring in Europe.

The West Bolton initiative was launched following a May 6 Town Council meeting where the issue was raised, and a subsequent special meeting to address the bat issue. Victor Grivegnée-Dumoulin, a biology student at the University of Sherbrooke, presented an overview of the ecology and precarious situation facing bats in Québec. The infection affects hibernating and nocturnal species more deeply than those that migrate.

Chartier is looking for funds and volunteers to help with the initiative and to decide where best to erect new bat houses. Anyone interested, or anyone who needs to remove bats from their attics, should contact Chartier at (450) 242-2836, or at robertchartier@sympatico.ca.