Help Save Our Bats


Dr. Craig Willis is a Professor and Researcher at UWinnipeg. With his students, Dr. Willis is conducting important bat conservation research. Bats play a crucial role in controlling insect pests of agriculture and forests, but are threatened by an infectious disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS).

crowd-bat-wnsBats with white-nose syndrome 
[Photo credit: ScienceDaily]

This disease is caused by a fungus that was accidentally introduced to North America, possibly by tourists visiting a cave. In less than 10 years WNS has killed millions of hibernating bats and is spreading westward at an alarming rate. The Government of Canada has listed three bat species as federally endangered because of WNS, and warned that WNS could lead to major economic and ecological costs ranging from reduced crop yields to additional insecticide use.


Dr. Willis’ team is developing innovative conservation tools to help save bats. WNS kills bats during their winter hibernation, and most work has focused on treating bats during this period. However, a small proportion of bats with WNS survive the winter and may be able to pass on “survival traits” to their offspring if they can reproduce in spring. Bat pups need very warm temperatures to grow so, during summer, mother bats select the warmest possible roosts and cuddle with each other to stay warm. With so many bats dead from WNS, though, mother bats now have fewer cuddling partners making warm roosts especially important. Dr. Willis' research suggests that providing artificially heated bat boxes could be of great value for helping mother bats raise their pups. Facilitating the reproduction of individuals that have survived WNS could allow genes that favour survival from the disease to spread throughout the population.

Dr. Craig Willis holding a bat boxDr. Willis holding a bat box
[Photo credit: The Uniter]

“As the leading bat conservation education organization in North America, the Organization for Bat Conservation receives dozens of requests daily from concerned citizens about how to help bats recover from white-nose syndrome. Tens of thousands of bat houses are put up each year in an effort to provide safe places for bats to raise healthy young. If these heated bat houses help bats avoid the deadly effects of white-nose syndrome, we could have a mitigation strategy that the general public and conservation organizations could take part in on a massive scale.”

- Rob Mies, Organization for Bat Conservation


Dr. Willis and his students have built a prototype heated bat box and found that bats in the lab prefer it over un-heated boxes. Now, in partnership with the Organization for Bat Conservation, the UWinnipeg bat team needs funding to purchase components for additional heated boxes to test this innovative conservation tool in the wild.

Bat box Bat boxes on a home

The team will install ten heated bat boxes ($389 each) and ten bat boxes without heating elements ($226 each). To carry out the experiment, we would also like to raise an additional $6700 for student stipends, $500 for field trip accommodations, and $1700 for travel ($15050 total). We will count the number of bats using each box, and also quantify the recovery rate from WNS and the reproductive output of the bats inhabiting the boxes. These boxes will be installed near active bat colonies identified by the general public on the newly launched website (, a citizen science initiative aimed to better understand and protect endangered bats in Canada.

You can donate online or send a cheque to:

The University of Winnipeg Foundation
901 - 491 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 2E4 Canada

*Note: Please make sure to mark your cheque for "HELP SAVE OUR BATS" and your gift will be counted towards this initiative!


Call toll-free: 1-866-394-6050

Any ideas, inventions, processes or outputs resulting from this project are solely owned by the project owners and The University of Winnipeg. Your financial contributions are donations that help make this important project possible and are greatly appreciated. However, donors are not entitled to any form of ownership nor may they infringe on the intellectual property resulting from this project 

For more information please visit the following links:

Willis Bat Lab

UWinnipeg News Centre - UWinnipeg’s Bat Lab needs your help

680CJOBDr. Craig Willis - Neighbourhood Bat Watch

CBCUniversity of Winnipeg wants you to join 'Neighbourhood Bat Watch'

CTVCall for help in protecting bats

Metro Winnipeg - Winnipeg’s Batman needs you to help him save bats

Winnipeg SunGoing to bat: U of W prof trying to stop spread of white-nose syndrome

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Our Need

If you want to help stop the crippling effect WNS is having on our bat populations or are simply passionate about conservation and protecting endangered animals, please support this important initiative. Every gift – be it $2 or $2,000 – makes a difference and the more people we can reach, the more likely we’ll be able to reach our goal. All Canadian gifts are tax deductible.