Bats and their Habitats

Whatever you think of bats, they are very much a part of our ecosystem – various breeds and species are exclusive to certain terrains, countries, climates. Britain is host to roughly 18 species of bats, but there are one of the most understudied animals in the world.
Bats are thoroughly protected by government legislation. The Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010) makes it illegal to purposefully capture, disturb, injure or kill bats, as well as damage their roosts. Even if the roosts are empty, it’s a crime to destroy them.
One of the main characteristics of bats is that they are very sensitive and will abandon their young if they are disturbed. Conducting specialised surveys is important so specific roosts can be identified accordingly, and the correct support is provided for the property’s owners and tenants.The surveys that are most popular when dealing with bat habitats are:

  • Initial daytime surveys – often done as a preliminary exercise to confirm that a roost is present in the property and how many surveyors will be needed for further inspections
  • Dusk emergence – conducted to gain more information to understand the significance of the roost; traditionally started around half an hour before sunset and can continue for up to two hours after sunset
  • Dawn re-entry – like dusk emergence surveys, these are conducted around 2 hours before sunrise and will continue until half an hour after sunrise.

During the year, bats will have at least two roosts. Once they come out of hibernation, around April time, the male bats leave to roost on their own or in bachelor roosts whilst female bats find pre-maternity roosts, moving to maternity roosts once they have fertilised their eggs, with sperm that they store during hibernation. Female bats don’t fertilise until after hibernation, being one of the few mammals who can perform delayed fertilisation (golden hamsters, flying foxes and hares can also do this).

Bat pups are born very large – imagine humans giving birth to five-year-olds – and can fly at six weeks, so their infancy is very fast; roosts can be loud and frantic. Once the pups can fly, the mothers leave to gain body fat for hibernation, shortly followed by the pups themselves. The chances are that if they are roosting in your or your client’s property during this time of their life, they will leave in around two months.Mating season comes back around by September, with males singing from their breeding harems to attract females before hibernation.

Hibernation happens between October and March, when bats must find their new roosts – icehouses, cellars and mines are all popular locations, which could cause issues for owners, tenants and users of said buildings. The consistent cold climate allows body temperatures to drop to around 0-5 Celsius (a huge difference from the 40 Celsius when in flight). Whilst in hibernation, their heartbeat slows to 6bpm, conserving that stored energy and fat. Once they wake, they start the process all over again, creating new roosts for the months ahead.

If you are conscious of needing a bat survey or would like to know more on this subject, please get in touch on 0800 021 6789.

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