05/07/2012 11:00 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Crashing bat population likely to hit P.E.I.

The white nose fungus killing hibernating bats in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will almost certainly have an impact on populations in P.E.I., says a scientist at the Atlantic Veterinary College.

The fungus has killed millions of bats in Eastern North America, causing them to wake from hibernation too early and die of starvation and exposure.

Dr. Scott McBurney, a wildlife pathologist at the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at AVC, said the majority of the Island's bats likely go to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to hibernate.

"Any mortality of bats in those two provinces are going to affect bats that would be returning to our province the next spring," said McBurney.

"It is likely that the mortalities that are currently occurring in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will reduce the bat population on Prince Edward Island."

A reduction in the bat population could hurt P.E.I.'s agriculture and forestry sectors, he said. A small brown bat can eat about 1,000 insects an hour.

Scientists have asked for endangered species status for the bat species affected by the fungus. Ottawa has yet to rule on that request.