‘I think it’s awesome’: Hundreds of bats move into historic Nanaimo area schoolhouse

CHEK

As the sun sets over North Oyster, south of Nanaimo, a wild group of neighbours is waking, as the humans who live around them gather in their places to watch from lawn chairs in wonder.

“It’s just the power of them all coming out. It’s just really exciting, to know what they do for us,” said Cathy Denham, a member of the North Oyster Historical Society.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Linda Brooymans, the stewardship manager for Nanaimo Area Land Trust.

In the attic of the century old North Oyster schoolhouse lives the largest colony of little brown bats on Mid-Vancouver Island. Ian Fisher told CHEK News that he remembers hearing the colony upstairs when he attended the school as a young child.

The now grandfather works hard with fellow volunteers to ensure the 100-year-old colony can keep its safe roost for many more years to come.

“Because they’ve been here, long before me,” said Fisher, an area resident and member of the North Oyster Historical Society.

“There’s no mosquitoes. Just see if you get bit tonight,” said Kathy Doyle, another local resident and member of the historical society.

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When the old schoolhouse was slated to be demolished, plans were to block the bats’ entry points ahead of their return in the spring. But volunteers saved the school house and relocated it across Cedar Road. Recent bat counts have revealed a healthier than ever population.

“We were up to over 1,800,” said Doyle.

“What does that tell you?” asked CHEK News.

“That it’s healthy, that there’s no white nose syndrome, hopefully, in these guys,” said Doyle.

“When I found out, that was the highest number, I mean it was by far the highest number so I was very excited,” said Brooymans.

“The best nesting area they could have, and they’ve had it for 100 years,” added Fisher.

North Oyster’s roost is home to a maternal colony, which means only mothers and baby bats live inside. Male bats have to stay out in bat boxes on the building’s outside.

“In the attic is the mothers, the pups and the immature females that actually apparently care for the pups when moms go out to get something to eat,” said Doyle.

“It’s just nature. The way nature works,” said Fisher.

There’s another silver lining to the insect-eating bats. Each fall, dedicated volunteers clean out the bats’ guano from the attic, and it turns out it’s extremely high in nitrogen, making it black gold to gardeners. Guano sales in 2023 alone raised over $1,000 for their home, that is now the North Oyster Community Centre, where the bat colony remains a source of fascination even 100 years later.

READ MORE: Annual BC Bat Count kicks off with call for volunteers

Skye Ryan

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