Desert Society News

Winter 2018

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Dear Supporters:

January 2018! Oh my, the New Year is already well launched and the hours of daylight are increasing, almost noticeably. The wild creatures we share this Miracle Earth with are using their survival strategies to make it through the challenges of winter. We humans have also adapted to the changing season, winter tires reduce road risk, winter clothing keeps out the cold, and winter food fuels our bodies. Many of us have brightened up the winter solstice dark days with fairy lights and family gatherings and have extended a helping hand to those less fortunate in our own community and further abroad.

Through these actions we develop a sense of belonging, of membership, membership in a family, or a tight circle of friends who have become our extended family. This brings my mind to the Penticton Soupateria which is operated by volunteers and totally relies on donations from the community to serve hot lunches to people in need. On Christmas Day a friend volunteered to help serve lunch. She noted one client who was having a very difficult time and how another client saw his need and comforted him. This scenario is repeated over and over, crossing societal boundaries, war torn conditions, and natural disasters, thus affirming our membership in the human family.

My mind now centers on the Osoyoos Desert Centre and Society. The Society's Board is powered by dedicated member volunteers and the Desert Centre could not operate without the many dedicated members and supporters who volunteer for varied tasks. The fact that you are reading this newsletter probably means that you, too, are a valued member. If you are reading this newsletter and are not a member, I invite you to become one; members are far more valuable than their membership dues. Membership demonstrates your support for the work we do and increases our credibility when applying for grants or seeking support. Members receive a quarterly newsletter, information about events, and FREE admission to the Osoyoos Desert Centre. Membership is $25 a year per person; becoming a member is as easy as following the instructions provided in this newsletter.

With 2018 fully launched, on behalf of the Board and staff, I wish you a safe and fulfilling year. May nature be part of your joyful times and may a visit to the Desert Centre be part of your plans.

On behalf of the Osoyoos Desert Society Board
Lee McFadyen
President, Osoyoos Desert Society

Your support makes a difference. Memberships and donations help fund the Desert Society's
habitat conservation, restoration and education efforts.

Membership is $25 per person per year.

Members receive Desert Society newsletters and FREE admission to the Desert Centre.


Payment may be made through the secure, encrypted PayPal link, or you can click here to download a mail-in registration form.


Thank you!


Bats Getting Ready For Winter: Residents Asked To Help
By Paula Rodriguez de la Vega,
Okanagan Community Bat Program Coordinator

Photo by Jennifer J
From the earliest of times, humankind has been intrigued and mystified by bats. Creatures that fly like birds but have fur instead of feathers, can see and hunt efficiently at night, and seem to mysteriously disappear during the day. Some can suck blood, others have wingspans as long as an adult's arms stretched out. No wonder they are shrouded by myths and feared by many.

Here in the Okanagan, though, bats are quite small, harmless, and incredibly important components of our healthy ecosystems. All of the bat species that live in the Okanagan are huge consumers of many different groups of insects and arachnids. No, we don't have vampire bats in Canada. And no, we don't have any fruit-eating bats in Canada either. Our bats will, however, devour moths, beetles, leafhoppers, and other flying insects that are considered pests to the agricultural and forestry industries. In a lab setting, one Little Brown Myotis ate 600 mosquitoes in an hour!  

Little is known about bat behaviour in winter, but research is underway. Most local bats hibernate in caves, mines, or rock crevices in the hills nearby. Their body temperatures lower, their heart rates slow, and their metabolism drops dramatically. Some, like the hoary bat, do migrate south to warmer climates to remain relatively active.

Winter hibernation sites represent a critical habitat type for bats. Not only are bats vulnerable to predation in hibernacula because they are in a torpid, inert state, but bats roused from this state use up valuable fat reserves. Relatively few bat hibernacula are known in BC and sites that are known have relatively few bats hibernating in them. The fact that the majority of hibernacula are unknown increases the risk of loss of populations or individuals due to development activities or other human disturbance. Researchers are currently studying winter bat activity and have found that some bat species are active in winter in BC including Big Brown bats, Yuma Myotis, Townsend's Big-eared bats, Silver-haired bats, and California Myotis. Bats may be active in winter to forage on insects that hibernate in mines, to mate, to drink water, or to stretch and use their muscles.

Little brown bat displaying WNS 
Photo by Marvin Moriarty, US Fish & Wildlife Service
In the Okanagan, we have at least 14 species of bats, half of which are considered "at risk" due to a variety of factors including habitat loss, wind turbines, restricted distribution, and susceptibility to white nose syndrome (WNS). White nose syndrome is a deadly disease caused by an introduced fungus that is decimating bat populations. It was first detected in 2006 in New York State. More than six million bats have died and mortality rates at affected sites are 80-100% in eastern North America. Many North American bat species that hibernate are thought to be at risk, with extinctions of some species likely. Although devastating for bats, WNS does not affect humans.

Unfortunately, WNS was confirmed in Washington State in 2016. This is very worrisome for the health of bat populations in British Columbia. The Okanagan Community Bat Program, in coordination with the BC government, has been actively collecting dead bats that local residents report. Fortunately, all of the 30 dead bats submitted between November 2016 and May 2017 tested negative for WNS. None were submitted thereafter, since in summer it is very difficult to detect the fungal spores that cause WNS.

The Okanagan Community Bat Program would like to ask residents for their continued support this winter.

Please report:
  • Bats flying during winter (an unusual sighting when bats are hibernating). Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.  
  • Dead bats (so they can be tested for WNS). Never touch a dead bat with your bare hands. Please note that if you or your pet has been in direct contact with a bat you will need further information regarding the risk of rabies to you and your pet. 
  • Roosting bats in early spring. If you have a bat box or bat roost, and you see bats in March, April and May of 2018, we would like to collect their fresh bat guano (droppings). WNS can be detected in the guano of bats that have recently emerged from hibernation.
Please report bats to the Okanagan Community Bat Program (toll free 1-855-922-2287 ext. 13 or For more information, go to

Currently there are no treatments for WNS. However, mitigating other threats to bat populations and preserving and restoring bat habitat may provide bat populations with the resilience to rebound. For more information on how to help bats, visit

The Okanagan Community Bat Program is part of a BC wide network and is supported by the Government of Canada, BC Government, the Habitat Conservation Foundation, and the
BC Conservation Foundation.

Help Wanted
The Desert Society has a variety of enjoyable and worthwhile volunteer opportunities. Joining our volunteer team is a great way to share your time and expertise, support the Society's efforts, and have fun. Opportunities include:
~ Front desk reception at the Desert Centre
~ Site maintenance
~ Garden maintenance and habitat restoration
~ Fundraising expertise

For more information contact the Osoyoos Desert Society at or call 250-495-2470.


2018 Winter Program Series
Hosted by the Osoyoos Desert Society
Sponsored by Watermark Beach Resort 

Admission by Donation
GRASSLANDS - Movie & An Expert
February 3 ~ 2-4 pm ~ Watermark Beach Resort
View a documentary about one of the world's most endangered ecosystems. "Grasslands" examines the unique natural habitat of the mixed-grass prairie from the perspective of the ranchers, conservationists and aboriginal people who understand it best and live by preserving it. Following the film, get an opportunity to meet Pluto the burrowing owl and learn more about this endangered grassland species with Lauren Meads, Executive Director of the Burrowing Owl Society.
BEARS - Movie & An Expert
February 17 ~ 2-4 pm ~ Watermark Beach Resort
Take a journey to BC's Great Bear Rainforest to witness up-close footage of Canada's legendary Spirit Bear. The "Spirit Bear" is a rare black bear that has white fur. The film follows a Spirit Bear mother with her two black-furred cubs as she tries to find food for her family while keeping them safe. After the film, Tom Saare, instructor with the BCIT Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program, will share his expertise on bears and bear safety.
March 10 ~ 2-4 pm ~ Watermark Beach Resort
A decade after "An Inconvenient Truth" brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. "An Inconvenient Sequel" follows Al Gore as he continues his fight, traveling around the world training climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Following the film collect a free action package and giveaways, and enter for a chance to win an energy saving gift basket.
BEES - Movie & An Expert
March 24 ~ 2-4 pm ~ Watermark Beach Resort
Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet, literally vanishing from their hives. Take a look at an award-winning documentary to find out what is causing this phenomenon and what can be done to stop it. After the film, Nancy Holms with the University of British Columbia and Border Free Bees will share information about Kelowna's nectar trail and what we can do to help bees.

Thank you for your support!
The Osoyoos Desert Society extends a sincere "Thank You" to all our supporters.

2017 Funders

  • 100 Men Who Care Penticton
  • BC Community Gaming Grants
  • Community Foundation South Okanagan Similkameen
  • Fortis BC
  • Osoyoos Credit Union
  • Regional District-RDOS, Area A
  • Suncor Energy Foundation
  • Town Of Osoyoos

Our deepest appreciation to all the individuals who give donations to the Society throughout the year, as well as the businesses who kindly donate services and products to support our projects and programs.

Volunteers and Members
As always, a very special thanks to our volunteers and members. You make it possible for the Osoyoos Desert Society to exist and continue to pursue its mission. Thank you so much for supporting our habitat conservation, restoration and education efforts!

To renew your membership or make a donation to the
Desert Society, please click here.

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 The Osoyoos Desert Society