Two new bat caves, home to 103 hibernating bats, were found in Alberta's Foothills by researchers.
The discovery, which included little brown bats and northern myotis, was made as part of the BatCaver — a program that teams up with cavers across Western Canada to identify places bats hibernate.
Both species are endangered in Canada.
"This is an exciting discovery because it puts us one step closer to understanding critical habitat needs for these environmentally important animals," Cori Lausen, a bat expert with the Wildlife Canada Society, said in a news release.
It comes a few months after another new cave where bats hibernate was discovered in Banff National Park.
The discoveries could help to protect the bats from a disease called white-nose syndrome, which is making its way westward.
Bats are an integral part of the ecosystem, eating their body weight each night in mosquitoes, moths and agricultural pests.
Since 2006, white-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States and five eastern provinces in Canada — and experts suggest it's only a matter of time before it hits Western Canada.
In the caves near Nordegg, the first one was previously known but revisited by Alberta Environment and Parks bat specialist Dave Hobson along with some BatCaver coordinators and volunteers.
It was confirmed as a hibernaculum, a place where bats hibernate during the winter. They counted little brown bats in clusters of up to 42 individuals, while the northern myotis — which often tuck away in rock crevices — were observed as single bats.
The second cave was located in the same area and also confirmed as a bat hibernaculum. Three hibernating bats were observed, but researchers have placed acoustic monitoring equipment in the cave to determine whether there are others.
They are the first bat hibernacula found as part of the BatCaver program, which was launched last year.