October 2007, Volume 5, Issue 10

Bats in the News

Tough Times for Scottish Bats

Scotland’s bats are having an especially tough time this year, says The Scotsman newspaper. “Reports have come from the Highlands – and elsewhere in Britain – of bats being weakened and forced to abandon their young by this summer’s poor weather and a consequent shortage of the insects on which the flying mammals feed.”

Reporter Jim Gilchrist notes that the United Kingdom’s 17 bat species are now protected by law and all of them are in decline – as are bats throughout the world – “as a result of numerous factors ranging from the predation of cats to habitat loss and the intensification of farming practices.”
But, he added, this summer’s exceptionally wet weather has proven especially damaging to bats. “Young bats left to starve, weak females and even bats driven to hunt during the day are some of the instances reported around Inverness. That’s where Katy Martin, Highland Council’s senior ranger for Inverness and Nairn, monitors bat populations, leads ‘bat walks’ and is finding a worrying drop in sightings of certain species.”
 She said that Daubenton’s bats seem particularly affected. She conducts regular surveys of these bats on the Ness Islands. While she hasn’t done a full survey yet, Martin said initial work with bat detectors (which make bat calls audible to humans) suggests the numbers of Daubenton’s bats are down markedly.
Martin told The Scotsman that bats are “a keystone species in that they indicate a healthy environment, that the insects they feed on, the plants the insects feed on and the air are all healthy. It reflects that things are healthy all down the food chain. So if bat numbers are down, it is a matter for concern.”
She blames the wet summer: “Female bats usually have their young in late May, early June, and they’re very susceptible to cold, damp weather at that time. If it is cold and damp, the baby bats can suffer from hypothermia and die. But also in those conditions, the mother bats don’t have a lot of the insect prey they need to produce milk for their babies.”
Martin cited reports that a number of maternity roosts, which are usually bustling each summer, are being found empty this year. Now she’s hoping bats that made it through the summer find enough foot over the next few months to store enough fat for hibernation.
“Even without inhospitable summers,” the newspaper said, “many British bat species are in worrying decline: ten years ago, the greater mouse-eared bat became the first mammal to be declared extinct in the UK since the wolf, two and a half centuries ago.”
Wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham, president of the Bat Conservation Trust in the UK, has highlighted the predicament facing British bats. His work, he told The Scotsman, “pointedly reaffirmed for me what a precarious position this group of animals is in here in the UK. It is clear that there is no room for any complacency in terms of our conservation efforts.”
Peckham recommends educating the public about the benefits and needs of bats. He urges homeowners to include in their gardens such things as night-scented flowers that attract the nocturnal insects on which bats prey. He also said trees provide shelter, attract bats and, with older trees, offer nooks and crannies for roosting sites.

All articles in this issue:

Stay up to date with BCI

Sign up and receive timely bat updates

BCI relies on the support of our amazing members around the world.

Our mission is to conserve the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet.

Please join us or donate so our work can continue.