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Have you purchased a bat detector?

Veterinary Practice’s conservation correspondent, reports on increasing numbers of bats being found – though it’s not all good news

BATS suffered serious population
declines in the UK and Europe over
the latter half of the 20th century.
Natural habitat loss, a reduction in
their insect food, and the improved
maintenance of the housing stock
reducing their man-made roosts, all
played a part. Now, though, comes
some good news at last.

A recent report by the
European Environment
Agency shows that across
nine European countries
bat numbers in general have
increased by 43% between
1993 and 2011. The report
is a compilation of surveys at 6,000
hibernation sites in the countries
concerned, covering 16 of the 45
species found in Europe.

Whilst good news, the report
stresses the need to interpret the results
with caution, since many countries and
species were unrepresented.
Additionally, some of those species that
were surveyed did not follow this trend
and are still extremely rare and

As an example, the grey long-eared
bat declined moderately in numbers
over the period and there are thought to be only 1,000 individuals currently
present in the UK, meaning that their
future here is far from secure.

As a taxonomic group, bats are
remarkably well represented with over
1,100 species recognised worldwide.
They account for around 20% of the
total mammal species currently known.

According to the Bat Conservation Trust, bats are long-lived animals with a
slow reproductive rate. Which means
that although bat populations can
decline rapidly, recovery takes a relatively
prolonged period of time.

The legal protection now afforded
to bats has played a big part in helping
numbers to recover but there is also
much that we can do as individuals to
assist these species.

Gardens provide real opportunities
for bats and seeing them at dusk on a
summer’s evening is a treat that never
ceases to thrill this correspondent.

Planting highly scented flowers to encourage insects, along
with shrubs and trees that
offer roosts and other
places for insect prey to
breed and hide, all help to
encourage bats to visit.
Consider that a common
pipistrelle might consume
some 3,000 insects in a
single night (many of
them midges), and you can appreciate
the quantity of insects needed to
maintain a healthy bat population.

One of the best ways of attracting
suitable insects to the garden is to
provide a wet area either in the form of
a pond or bog garden. This not only
increases the insect prey available but
also provides the bats with a place to

Native plants

Planting the area with native plants such
as marsh marigold, lady’s smock, yellow
iris and water forget-me-nots will ensure
it is both useful in wildlife terms and
visually appealing.

If you want to go further, and have
the space, hedges provide great hunting
grounds and navigational aids for bats
and you could always install a bat box or two to encourage them to
roost or hibernate on your
own patch. There are
various commercial designs
available or you can make
them at home.

The Bat Conservation
Trust has a wealth of
information to guide you in
this respect as well as ideas on how you can get involved with like-
minded people locally through various
bat groups.

And if you’re really committed to
the cause, why not purchase a bat
detector which allows you to hear the
high-pitched sounds (too high to be
detected by human ears) emitted as
navigational aids. With experience you
will be able to identify which species is
making the calls, giving you even more
insight into the creatures that are
sharing your garden with you.

For further information check out
the Bat Conservation Trust website at:
• The National Bat Conference,
organised by the Bat Conservation
Trust, is to be held at the University of
Warwick from 5th to 7th September.
Details are on the website.

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