VANCOUVER - They are the stuff of Halloween horror stories, the alter-ego of vampires, the frightful beasts that foreshadow the macabre.

Bats strike fear in many hearts, but it is these nocturnal mammals that are in danger, decimated by a mysterious disease that has wiped out seven million in North America in a few short years.

"Wherever it shows up, it has a significant impact," said Graham Forbes, a biologist at the University of New Brunswick and a member of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada subcommittee. "Some caves are basically becoming empty."

In February 2012, COSEWIC held an emergency assessment for the tri-colored bat, the little brown myotis and northern myotis and found all three were endangered by white-nose syndrome, so named because of the white fungus that grows over the faces of infected bats.

A recommendation has been made to the federal environment minister that an emergency order be issued to list the bats as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. In November, a COSEWIC committee will meet again to discuss their status and vote on another recommendation.

The outcome is unlikely to surprise.

"It's bad and it got worse," Forbes said.

By the end of last winter, the disease had been confirmed in 22 U.S. states and in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. In New Brunswick, it is estimated about 99 per cent of the known winter population of little brown myotis, or little brown bat, has died.

The disease has not yet been confirmed west of Ontario, but it has been found in Minnesota, south of Manitoba, and appears to be spreading 200 to 400 kilometres per year since it first showed up in New York state in February 2006. It is believed that as many as seven million bats have died since.

The fungus grows in cold weather, and it hits while bats are most vulnerable, hibernating in caves and old mines through the winter. Experts believe the fungus was introduced in North America by a visitor from Europe, where it has existed for some time and where bats have developed resistance.

"The population here just has no immunity to it," Forbes said. "They haven't been exposed to it before."

Some provinces have closed off access to caves and other known hibernation sites to limit the spread, but biologists say it may be in a race against time.

"We basically feel like we're in this race and we don't know how long we have to get to the finish line," said Cori Lausen, the bat biologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada.

Lausen, with a grant from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, is working with the Nature Conservancy Canada to secure bat habitats in British Columbia, tapping into the province's caving community to find hibernation sites, or hibernacula, and count the bats that take shelter this winter.

The shadow of white-nose syndrome has cast bats in a new light, and biologists have realized how little they know about the small mammals in western Canada.

"We don't have these big hibernacula like they do in the East, so we don't even know what to monitor quite frankly. White nose could already be here and we wouldn't necessarily know," Lausen said.

"So far we have no reason to believe it's here."

Although white-nose syndrome has not been found in B.C., the westernmost province is home to 16 of the 18 bat species in Canada and half of them are already considered at-risk.

One looming threat is the growing presence of wind farms — a threat that wasn't realized until the first turbine went up in northeastern B.C. and killed two Eastern red bats, a species biologists weren't even aware existed in the province.

"It was a real red flag for us that we don't know enough about our bats and we better figure it out fast," Lausen said, adding that one recent study estimated that as many bats have died in North America from wind turbines as have died from the syndrome.

"Here we have been very concerned about white-nose because it's killing millions and millions of bats, and this wind energy has been doing the same thing but we haven't ever pooled all the data together enough to realize it."

The threats have prompted an image makeover for bats, which eat up about 1,200 mosquito-sized insects an hour each. Cavers have been keen to help with bat counts, and bat houses are increasingly popular with the public.

"Suddenly they're not just a pest," she said.

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  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Diceros sumatrensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Sumatran rhino <strong>Category:</strong> Rhino <strong>Population: </strong> < 250 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Hunting for horn -used in traditional medicine

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Eleutherodactylus thorectes</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Macaya Breast-Spot Frog <strong>Category:</strong> Frog <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat destruction due to charcoal production and slash-and-burn agriculture Credit: <a href="http://www.robindmoore.com">Robin Moore</a>

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Red-Finned Blue Eye <strong>Category:</strong> Freshwater Fish <strong>Population: </strong>2,000 - 4,000 Individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Predation by introduced species

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Rafetus Swinhoei</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Red River Giant Softshell Turtle <strong>Category:</strong> Turtle <strong>Population: </strong>4 known individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Hunting for consumption and habitat destruction and degradation as a result of wetland destruction and pollution

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Neurergus kaiseri</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Luristan newt <strong>Category:</strong> Newt <strong>Population: </strong> < 1000 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Illegal collection for pet trade

  • List Provided By Zoological Society Of London/ International Union For Conservation Of Nature

    <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Poecilotheria metallica</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Peacock Parachute Spider <strong>Category:</strong> Spider <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat loss and degradation as a result of deforestation, firewood collection and civil unrest

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Atelopus balios</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Rio Pescado Stubfoot Toad <strong>Category:</strong> Toad <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Chytridiomycosis and habitat destruction due to logging and agricultural expansion

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Johora Singaporensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Singapore Freshwater Crab <strong>Category:</strong> Crab <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation - reduction in water quality and quantity

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Abies beshanzuensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Baishan Fir <strong>Category:</strong> Conifer <strong>Population: </strong>5 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Agricultural expansion and fire

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Actinote zikani </em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Butterfly <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown, one population remaining <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation due to pressure from human populations

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Aipysurus foliosquama</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Leaf Scaled Sea-Snake <strong>Category:</strong> Sea snake <strong>Population: </strong> Unknown, two subpopulations remain <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Unknown - likely degradation of coral reef habitat

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Amanipodagrion gilliesi</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Amani Flatwing <strong>Category:</strong> Damselfly <strong>Population: </strong> < 500 individuals est. <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation due to increasing population pressure and water pollution

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Antilophia bokermanni</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Araripe Manakin <strong>Category:</strong> bird <strong>Population: </strong>779 individuals (est 2010) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat destruction due to expansion of agriculture and recreational facilities and water diversion

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> Antisolabis seychellensis <strong>Common Name: </strong> Seychelles Earwig <strong>Category:</strong> Earwig <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Invasive species and climate change

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> Aphanius transgrediens <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Freshwater fish <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Competition and predation by Gambusia and road construction

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> Ardeotis nigriceps <strong>Common Name: </strong> Great Indian Bustard <strong>Category:</strong> Bird <strong>Population: </strong> 50 -249 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat loss and modification due to agricultural development

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> Aproteles bulmerae <strong>Common Name: </strong>Bulmer's Fruit Bat <strong>Category:</strong> Bat <strong>Population: </strong>150 individuals (est) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Hunting and cave disturbance

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> Ardea insignis <strong>Common Name: </strong>White Bellied Heron <strong>Category:</strong> Bird <strong>Population: </strong>70-400 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat destruction and degradation due to hydropower development

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Astrochelus yniphora</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong> Ploughshare Tortoise / Angonoka <strong>Category:</strong> Tortoise <strong>Population: </strong>440-770 <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Illegal collection for international pet trade

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Aythya innotata</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Madagascar Pochard <strong>Category:</strong> Bird <strong>Population: </strong> Approximately 20 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation due to slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting, and fishing / introduced fish

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Azurina eupalama</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong> Galapagos damsel fish <strong>Category:</strong> Pelagic fish <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Climate Change - oceanographic changes associated with the 1982 / 1983 El Nino are presumed to be responsible for the apparent disappearance of this species from the Galapagos

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Bahaba taipingensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong> Giant yellow croaker <strong>Category:</strong> Pelagic fish <strong>Population: </strong> Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Over-fishing, primarily due to value of swim-bladder for traditional medicine - cost per kilogram exceeded that of gold in 2001

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Batagur baska</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong> Common Batagur/ Four-toed terrapin <strong>Category:</strong> Turtle <strong>Population: </strong> Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Illegal export and trade from Indonesia to China

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> Bazzania bhutanica <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Liverwort <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation and destruction due to forest clearance, overgrazing and development

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Beatragus hunteri</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Hirola <strong>Category:</strong> Antelope <strong>Population: </strong> < 1000 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat loss and degradation, competition with livestock, poaching

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Bombus franklinii</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Franklin's Bumble Bee <strong>Category:</strong> Bee <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Disease from commercially bred bumblebees and habitat destruction and degradation

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> Brachyteles hypoxanthus <strong>Common Name: </strong> Northern muriqui <strong>Category:</strong> Primate <strong>Population: </strong> < 1,000 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat loss and fragmentation due to large-scale deforestation and selective logging

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Bradypus pygmaeus</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Pygmy sloth <strong>Category:</strong> Sloth <strong>Population: </strong> < 500 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat loss due to illegal logging of mangrove forests for firewood and construction and hunting of the sloths

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Callitriche pulchra</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Freshwater plant <strong>Population: </strong> Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Exploitation of the species' habitat by stock, and modification of the pool by local people

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Calumma tarzan</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Tarzan's Chameleon <strong>Category:</strong> Chameleon <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat destruction for agriculture

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Cavia intermedia</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Santa Catarina's Guinea Pig <strong>Category:</strong> Guinea Pig <strong>Population: </strong> 40-60 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat disturbance and possible hunting; small population effects

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Cercopithecus roloway</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Roloway Guenon <strong>Category:</strong> Primate <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Hunting for consumption as bushmeat, and habitat loss

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Coleura seychellensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Seychelles Sheath-Tailed Bat <strong>Category:</strong> Bat <strong>Population: </strong> < 100 mature individuals (est 2008) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation and predation by invasive species

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Cryptomyces maximus</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Fungus <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Limited availability of habitat

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Cryptotis nelsoni</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Nelson's Small-Eared Shrew <strong>Category:</strong> Shrew <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> habitat loss due to logging cattle grazing, fire and agriculture

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Cyclura collei</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Jamaican Iguana <strong>Category:</strong> Iguana <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Predation by introduced species and habitat destruction

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Dendrophylax fawcettii</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Cayman Islands Ghost Orchid <strong>Category:</strong> Orchid <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat destruction due to infrastructure development

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Diomedea amsterdamensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Amsterdam Island Albatross <strong>Category:</strong> Bird <strong>Population: </strong>100 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Disease and incidental capture in long-line fishing operations

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Diospyros katendei</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong> None <strong>Category:</strong> Tree <strong>Population: </strong>20 individuals, one population <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> High pressure from communities for agricultural activity, illegal tree felling, habitat degradation due to alluvial gold digging and small population

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Dipterocarpus lamellatus</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Dipterocarp (tree) <strong>Population: </strong>12 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat loss and degradation due to logging of lowland forest and creation of industrial plantations

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Discoglossus nigriventer</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong> Hula painted frog <strong>Category:</strong> Frog <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (recent rediscovery in 2011) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Predation by birds and range restriction due to habitat destruction

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Discorea strydomiana</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Wild Yam <strong>Category:</strong> Yam <strong>Population: </strong>200 Individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Collection for medicinal use

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Dombeya mauritiana</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Flowering plant <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation and destruction due to encroachment by alien invasive plant species and cannabis cultivation

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Eleocarpus bojeri</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Flowering plant <strong>Population: </strong> < 10 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Small population and degraded habitat

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Eleutherodactylus glandulifer</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>La Hotte Glanded Frog <strong>Category:</strong> Frog <strong>Population: </strong>Unknown (declining) <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat destruction due to charcoal production and slash-and-burn agriculture

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Eriosyce chilensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Chilenito <strong>Category:</strong> Cactus <strong>Population: </strong> < 500 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Collection of flowering individuals

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Erythrina schliebenii</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Coral Tree <strong>Category:</strong> Flowering tree <strong>Population: </strong> < 50 individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Limited habitat and small population size increasing vulnerability to stochastic events

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Euphorbia tanaensis</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Semi-deciduous tree <strong>Population: </strong>4 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Illegal logging and habitat degradation due to agricultural expansion and infrastructure development

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Eurynorhynchus pygmeus</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Spoon-Billed Sandpiper <strong>Category:</strong> Bird <strong>Population: </strong> < 100 breeding pairs <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Trapping on wintering grounds and land reclamation.

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Ficus katendei</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>None <strong>Category:</strong> Tree (ficus) <strong>Population: </strong> < 50 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Agricultural activity, illegal tree felling and habitat degradation due to alluvial gold digging

  • <strong>Scientific Name:</strong> <em>Geronticus eremita</em> <strong>Common Name: </strong>Northern Bald Ibis <strong>Category:</strong> Bird <strong>Population: </strong>200-249 mature individuals <strong>Threats To Survival:</strong> Habitat degradation and destruction, and hunting