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'They're not these malicious creatures of the night': UBC researchers collect bat data after deadly fungus found

Vancouver's nightlife stretches further than just the Granville strip. Bats are letting loose and can be seen flying across the city's night sky and coexisting with its urban environment.

UBC bat researchers Dr. Matthew Mitchell and Aaron Aguirre are bringing the small creatures to light by collecting data on their activity throughout the summer.

"Forget what you know about bats from pop culture. They're not these malicious creatures of the night," said Aguirre.

The project will look to better understand how bats use urban and natural landscapes and how their environment impacts them.

The project comes at a time when a fungus that has led to some Canadian bat populations becoming endangered was found last month in the Grand Forks area.

The province's Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship said in April the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, which has no proven treatment, had been detected in bat guano, or bat droppings.

"It's really irritating for them; it arouses them out of their torpor, and they want to groom it off. It's like trying to sleep with an athlete's foot on your face," said Aguirre.

White-nose syndrome was discovered in New York State in 2006 and has since spread to 38 states and eight provinces.

In some cases on the east coast, white-nose syndrome has 90 to 98 per cent mortality rates.

The ministry said the fungus is primarily caused by bat-to-bat contact and can spread through the movement of contaminated clothing and gear, or through accidental transport of the animals.

Julia Craig, who has studied local bats for years while at UBC, believes there is no risk of the fungus spreading to humans or other mammals, but is urging people to use precautions to help stop the spread.

"Follow advisories if they say do not enter cave systems, don't enter, because you're putting bats in harm's way by potentially spreading and bringing white-nose syndrome to other places," said Julia Craig, a former UBC researcher.

As of Saturday night, there are no confirmed cases of white-nose syndrome in Vancouver.

Over the summer, Aguirre plans to survey dozens of lower mainland parks to determine bat activity pre and post-fledgling season. Top Stories

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