Introducing: Avon Bat GroupPosted on: 09 Aug 2018
Avon Bat Group is a collective of bat enthusiasts and volunteers in the Bristol and Bath area working to protect bats, their roots and habitats through on-hand care and education.
Through dispelling myths, collecting data, offering bat walks while caring for sick, injured or orphaned bats, the group hopes to maintain the species and enable others to appreciate how fascinating they are. 365Bristol spoke to one member of the group, Stewart Rowden, to find out a little bit more about their work, bats and the myths surrounding them.
Hi Stewart! So, what are the three most common misconceptions about bats?
1. Bats aren’t blind! They can see just as well as we can, but being nocturnal means they have more sensitive eyes so don’t like bright light.
2. Bats don’t want to drink our blood, in fact, there are only three species of bat that drink blood, and they are all in South-Central America (and rarely bite humans there). All bats in the UK eat insects.
3. Bats are not vermin: they are actually protected under law by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulation 2017 and the Wildlife And Countryside Act 1981. People harming bats or their roosts are committing a criminal offense.
Can you give us four fun facts about bats?
1. Bats can fly around in pitch blackness without colliding into things because of their ability to echolocate.
2. Bats can hibernate hanging upside down for months at a time - they have specially adapted tendons attached to their claws that lock into place so the bat can go to sleep without having to think about hanging on.
3. Baby bats are called pups!
4. We currently have 17 resident species of bats in the UK.
How are you helping to conserve bats in their natural habitat?
Avon Bat Group monitor bat populations by carrying out surveys of roosts and habitats. A few of us have licenses to safely catch and handle bats so that we can get even better data.
Using radio tags on bats means we can follow the bats and track where roosts are as well as essential commuting routes and foraging habitats. We’re then able to give this information to the Local Planning Authorities. They can take the data into account when looking at planning proposals.
We also have bat carers who are qualified to rescue and care for injured, sick and orphaned bats. It can take a lot of work to get them back out into the wild if they are the pups or badly injured! Also, we give education talks to debunk myths.
What should we do if we find a bat in need of help?
You can phone the Bat Conservation Trust helpline on 0345 1300 228 - they can provide advice and contact details for local bat carers. Otherwise, try the RSPCA or SecretWorld.
It is very important that you do not handle bats with bare hands - there have been a very tiny number of bats found to carry rabies. The bat has to bite or scratch you to give you the virus, but they will only bite in self-defense when you are trying to pick it up.
One of the crucial things bat carers do is to make sure someone who has been bitten or scratched gets medical attention ASAP.
If your cat brings in a bat try to get someone to look at it - bats get all sorts of invisible injuries because they have their wings closed up tight or the wounds are hidden under the fur.
How can others get involved?
Join Bat Conservation Trust and join your local bat group.
Do you have any events coming up?
We run regular bat walks and give education talks. A bat walk begins at sunset. The walk leader usually gives the attendees some information about bats and then teaches them how to use the bat detectors. You’ll be shown how to identify bats by how they fly and how they sound on the bat detector!
South Gloucester Libraries can lend out bat detectors to members of the library with an instruction pack and a map with good places to see and hear bats.
Places like Eastville lake are good for bats - there are lots of insects due to the water and the vegetation, and they are easy to see on a nice evening as it starts to get dark. They hunt for food above the water or near the trees.
Follow Avon Bat Group on Facebook for more information.
Hannah recently graduated with a degree in English with Writing. She is an avid writer, freelancer and creative. She is currently writing her first full-length novel and a collection of poetry. Always out and about in Bristol's music scene, she attends music events on a weekly basis.