Fisher Bay: Protecting Crucial Habitat for Manitoba’s Bats


Spanning over 800 km2, the Fisher Bay Reserve is located 2 hours north of Winnipeg and sits within a vast stretch of boreal forest1. In order to preserve the healthy landscape, the Fisher Bay Provincial Park was established in 20112, keeping the wide range of natural features – from forests, bogs, and beaches – available for an array of wildlife. The park boasts a range of species encompassing white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red fox, and many birds and fish3. The land is maintained for recreational use, protecting the wildness from mining, logging, oil, gas, and hydroelectric development4. Moreover, by eliminating the impact of industrial developments, critical habitats remain for endangered species such as the piping plover.

These conservation efforts have led to the preservation of old forest growth, which provides ideal habitat for many animals including bats. Manitoba is home to three species of migratory bats that reside in the trees and leaf litter, but travel long distances yearly during autumn and spring migration. Old growth forest is of particular importance to these species, as snags and hollows in the trees provide suitable habitat5. Also, the wide range of tree species - white birch, balsam fir, jack pine, and black spruce6 – help bats in finding optimal roosting locations, such as those shielded from high winds7. However, logging removes these forests, reducing habitat availability for migratory bats. Therefore protecting the old growth forest near Fisher Bay helps to provide essential summer roosts8 for these elusive animals.

Manitoba is also home to three species of hibernating bats, which use forested areas during the summer and hibernate in caves and mines, known as hibernacula, over winter. In fact, up to 35,000 bats hibernate within and around the Fisher Bay provincial park including the Lake St. George Caves Ecological Reserve9. The large majority of bats overwinter in a cave near the park10, making it one of the most valuable environments for bats in Manitoba. Though, as bats are sensitive to disruption, the cave is off limits to the public11. Maintaining the cave is particularly important in light of white-nose syndrome, a disease that is currently decimating bat populations across eastern Canada and the northeastern United States12. This disease affects all Manitoba’s three hibernating species13, but fortunately white-nose syndrome is not yet present in the province14. Nonetheless, maintaining an undisturbed environment for hibernating bats is crucial to conserving these species.

The Fisher Bay provincial park stands as an important wildlife refuge in Manitoba, ensuring that the animals and natural land remains protected for years to come. Yet more can be done to help maintain this valuable landscape. The Fisher River Cree Nation and CPAWS are encouraging the Government of Manitoba to expand the park boundaries in order to achieve sufficient ecological and cultural preservation. For more information and to take action visit the Manitoba Chapter of CPAWS (http://www.cpawsmb.org).

1. Government of Manitoba, Fisher Bay Park Reserve: Proposal to Renew Fisher Bay Park Reserve (Canada: Government of Manitoba, 2010). http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/pdf/public/fbpr_proposal_fact_sheet.pdf (Accessed November 15, 2013).

2. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, “CPAWS welcomes new Fisher Bay Park in Manitoba,” Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: News (July 4, 2011). http://cpaws.org/news/new-fisher-bay-park-in-manitoba (Accessed November 15, 2013).

3. Government of Manitoba, Fisher Bay Provincial Park (Canada: Government of Manitoba, 2011). http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/pdf/public/fisher_bay_pp_info_doc.pdf (Accessed November 15, 2013).

4. Government of Manitoba, 2010.

5. Heather Robbins, “Fisher Bay bats potential provincial park tourist attraction,” InterlakeToday.ca (March 15, 2010). http://www.interlaketoday.ca/2010/03/15/fisher-bay-bats-potential-provincial-park-tourist-attraction (Accessed November 15, 2013).

6. Government of Manitoba, 2011.

7. Craig K. R. Willis and R. Mark Brigham, “Physiological and ecological aspects of roost selection by reproductive female hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus),” Journal of Mammalogy 86, 1 (2005), p. 85-94.

8. Heather Robbins, 2010.

9. Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, Fisher Bay Park Reserve: Areas of Ecological Significance Study (Canada: Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources Inc., 2006), p. 10-11. http://www.cpawsmb.org/uploads/CIER%20Fisher%20Bay%20Ecological%20Significance%20Report%20June%2006.pdf (Accessed November 15, 2013).

10. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, “Wildlife biologist calls Manitoba’s Fisher Bay crucial habitat for little brown bats,” Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: News (March 3, 2010). http://cpaws.org/news/wildlife-biologist-calls-manitobas-fisher-bay-crucial-habitat-for-little-br (Accessed November 15, 2013).

11. Heather Robbins, 2010.

12. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, “White-nose syndrome (WNS),” USGS National Wildlife Health Center - White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) (August 29, 2013). http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/white-nose_syndrome/ (Accessed November 15, 2013).

13. White-nose syndrome.org, “Bats affected by WNS,” Bats affected by WNS - white-nose syndrome (October 2013).  http://whitenosesyndrome.org/about/bats-affected-wns (Accessed November 15, 2013).

14. White-nose syndrome.org, “White-nose syndrome map,” White-nose syndrome map – white-nose syndrome (October 2013). http://whitenosesyndrome.org/resources/map  (Accessed November 15, 2013).