Bats

Like the Mammal Society, Dorset Mammal Group includes Bats – both in towns and in the countryside. Dorset’s rural landscapes, and small towns, make it an attractive place for bats – our county is a stronghold for some of Britain’s rarest bats – 16 of Britain’s species of bat are found here.

Where To See Bats (April-October)

The most common bat species emerge about 20 minutes after sunset – riverside footpaths and ponds often attract insects which the bats feed on – look around street lights in these places and you might see bats hunting. Similarly, look up at the sky in your own garden just after sunset – or look around old barns or farm buildings at dusk – it would be surprising not to see a bat on a warm still evening.

What do bats sound like? Which species are out there?

To hear bats you will need a bat detector; their calls are made in the ultrasonic frequencies above the level most adults can hear – if you click on this species list you can see the bats and you can hear their echolocation calls which have been changed to be audible to the human ear. Bats use these calls to obtain a 3D image of their prey – the sound bounces back and tells the bat the size, the distance, and the shape of the insect – bats are not blind they can see with their eyes – and in the dark can see much better than us with the extra information that echolocation provides.

Where Do Bats Live?

Bats live in different places at different times of the year. In winter a cool place, like a tunnel or cave, is ideal for hibernation. In summer they prefer somewhere warm and dry – that is when they often like to live in buildings. Some species of bat prefer tree roosts – take care not to destroy a roost if you are having any tree work done in your garden – bats can live in surprisingly small crevices. If you think you have bats – tell the tree surgeon and Natural England – email dorset@naturalengland.org.uk

Threats To Bats

The domestic cat is the most significant predator of Britain’s bats – keeping your cat in for an hour or so around dawn, or dusk, will help to protect bats as they emerge from their roosts or return after a night’s hunting. Wood preservative treatments in lofts are another danger – always check to see if bats are in residence before starting any work in your loft. Dorset Bat Group can arrange for someone to check for bats, on behalf of Natural England, as a first stage in the planning process.

Bat and the Law

Bats are highly protected in law, you can be fined £5000 for every bat disturbed or killed! You should seek expert help if you think that you may accidentally harm a bat. The Bat Conservation Trust and the Police work together to protect bats. If you think that bats are being intentionally harmed call the BCT National Bat Helpline 0345 1300 228 or ring Dorset Police and say “Operation Bat”. See more information on bats and planning. There are also some very useful advice notes provided by Dorset County Council here.

Bats In Your Home

Bats are good neighbours – they do not chew wires, build nests, or bring pests in to your house. They will eat vast numbers of biting insects that visit your garden. Nobody is compelled to tolerate bats in their living rooms and help is available to persuade the bats to move to a less contentious part of your property. The installation of bat boxes and other mitigation measures can be put in place if you seek help from local bat experts.

What To Do If You Find A Grounded Bat

Always use a cloth, or gardening gloves, to pick up a bat. (if you are bitten, then you should tell your doctor immediately) you can catch the bat like you would a spider by placing a shoe box on top of it and sliding a piece of paper underneath to get it in the box. Put the box somewhere warm & dark, and provide a clean cloth for the bat to rest on and hide in. Provide a small dish of water – this should be poured on to a small piece of folded kitchen towel in the dish so that the bat can suck up the water rather than lap it. Cover the container with a light cloth or the shoe box lid with holes in – this will be enough to stabilize an injured bat until it can be rescued, or checked and released, by a welfare organisation. Not taking a bat into care is the best solution if this is possible. Almost all cat inflicted injuries will prove fatal if not treated with antibiotics -a Vet can save a bat with broken bones or bite injuries. Call the National Bat Helpline and they will advise you on the best course of action Tel: 0345 1300 228. East Dorset Bat Rescue & Rehabilitation is a local organisation which may be able to pick up injured bats Tel 07746 743221.

DMG does not offer training for NE Bat Licences – if you are interested please contact Dorset Bat Group, who organise licence training courses for Natural England’s Voluntary Bat Roost Visitors. You will first need to get 3 anti-rabies vaccinations done (European Lyssavirus, Type 2) and another a year later. Bats pose no risk to people on bat walks, or to people who have them living in their houses, the only risk is for those who handle bats and, therefore, could get bitten.

Why Bats Matter

Bats eat huge quantities of insects, some estimates suggest a single bat can consume 3000 small insects such as midges and gnats in one night. However, the large bats take bigger insects and due to the extensive use of pesticides the numbers of these have been declining rapidly having a serious effect on bat populations.

Links and Contact Information