May 8th 2017
Bear Environmental recently attended a one day bat care course conducted by the Tayside Bat Group (www.taysidebatgroup.wixsite.com/batty) in Perth, Scotland. Presentations were given by Dr. Sue Swift, Tracey Jolliffe and Catherine Wood.
Dr. Sue Swift started the day by giving a presentation into the background of bats in the UK, why bats are vulnerable and therefore hold the highest European protection.
There are 18 (17 of which are known to be breeding) species in the UK from 2 families (Vespertilionidae and Rhinolophidae); and 10 species from the Vespertilionidae family in Scotland with the most common species being the soprano pipistrelle.
Pipistrelle bats can live for up to 25 years and normally rear one infant per year. Being social creatures and gathering in large maternity colonies (in the UK these can be up to 1000 individuals); when sites or colonies are disturbed or directly impacted it is easy to affect the entire local population. This combined with a c.50% failure rate of juveniles making it through their first winter re-enforces their vulnerable status.
A bat’s chosen prey depends on availability of food, weather conditions and a bat’s wing morphology (species evolution will mean wing morphologies vary in size/shape depending on multiple factors such as size and habitat preference – wing morphology and evolution though is for another blog!). What’s key to feeding for UK bats is their adaptation depend on these variables.
Tracey Jolliffe gave a presentation on first aid for bats, full details are outlined in the BCT Bat Care Guidelines manual, here, with the main aim of causing zero harm. Key points of the initial assessment are getting information on the status of the bat prior to receiving or collection, keeping good records and taking an appropriate assessment of that bat through thorough examination.
The outcome from the initial assessment was then discussed; main options being quick release (mainly from minor injuries with a day or two of feeding or flight practice), euthanasia (an unfortunate but realistic requirement for injured bats) or treatment of injuries with an outline of the requirements and set-up required.
Finally, we looked at housing of injured bats with temporary and long term options discussed and the varying levels of equipment and therefore space/resources/time required to take care of them. Care and condition elements include housing, temperature, feeding, exercise, continued assessment and hibernation. The ethics of having long term captives who will not be able to survive in the wild and the well-being of the bat not part of a colony was a key topic.
Bear (Environmental) participated in some well needed bat handling practice including a pipistrelle and serotine bat, with the serotine bat being the largest that Bear has handled to date and was beautiful to hold (although huge compared to the pip). We were lucky enough to be able to look at a Kuhl’s pipistrelle bat, not a UK resident but this one found its way to one of the bat carers from mainland Europe.
Key information from the final presentation was about how to reunite a pup with its mum and dealing with pups and juveniles with an emphasis on getting as many pups back to the roost as possible. A significant statement was ‘In every decision you must decide: What is best for the bat’; so consider the ethical context, possible outcomes for bat’s, justification for keeping a bat and when to euthanise.
For those wishing to take part in volunteering or bat care go to the Bat Conservation Trust website (http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/volunteer.html) organisations important research.