Accommodation of Casualty Insectivorous Bats (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Bechstein's bat - Myotis bechsteinii, Brandt's bat - Myotis brandtii, Brown long-eared bat - Plecotus auritus, Daubenton's bat - Myotis daubentonii, Greater horseshoe bat - Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Grey long-eared bat - Plecotus austriacus, Large mouse-eared bat - Myotis myotis, Lesser horseshoe bat - Rhinolophus hipposideros, Noctule - Nyctalus noctula, Lesser noctule - Nyctalus leiseri, Nathusius' pipistrelle - Pipistrellus nathusii, Natterer's bat - Myotis nattereri, Northern bat - Eptesicus nilssoni, Particoloured bat - Vespertilio murinus, Pipistrelle - Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Serotine - Eptesicus serotinus, Western barbastelle - Barbastella barbastellus, Whiskered bat - Myotis mystacinus

The UK bat species are from the families Rhinolophidae, Vespertilionidae.

Bats, as other small mammals, are able to escape through very small gaps: accommodation should be escape proof, with a secure, close-fitting lid.

Transport Container:

1) Within a thin cotton bag with a drawstring, such as those sold by the British Trust for Ornithology for use with small birds. These should be used with the seams on the outside of the bag and the bat may be transported with the bag hung up.

2) Within a small cage fitted with a suitable substrate which the bat is able to cling to, e.g.:

  • a wooden box lined with nylon netting and foam polystyrene.
  • a plastic aquarium/tank with a secure closely-fitting plastic or metal fine mesh lid and quilted paper towel (kitchen roll) hanging down the inside walls.

Water should be provided during all but very short journeys.

  • Vespertilionid bats (all the British bats except horseshoe bats) will lap water from saturated cotton wool and this may be useful for bats during transport. However there is a risk of loose fibres being ingested or getting into the eyes. (B168.7.w7)

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • Keep dark and quiet.
  • Any small container, such as a small plastic aquarium or similar box with a fine-mesh plastic or wire mesh lid may be used.
  • Paper towel (kitchen roll) should be draped down the inside walls for the bat to cling to.
  • May be kept warm e.g. by placing the box in an incubator, in an airing cupboard or on a commercial vivarium electric heat mat.
  • Temperature of 34-36C had been recommended for intensive care.(D28)
  • The temperature must be thermostatically controlled or checked regularly to prevent overheating.

(B151, B169.15.w15, P19.1.w7,  D24, D28)

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Aim: to provide a secluded environment, with places to hang and groom and where food and water are always available. (P19.1.w7)
  • Warmth may be provided by means of an infra red lamp or a small flexible desk lamp fitted with a red bulb.
  • Any small container may be used, such as a small plastic aquarium or similar box with a fine-mesh plastic or wire mesh lid.
  • Paper towel (kitchen roll) should be draped down the inside walls for the bat to cling to.
  • Butterfly/bug cages with sides of taut-stretched nylon mesh (to which the bat can cling) may also be used.
  • Wooden boxes (e.g. small two-compartment rabbit hutch) may be converted to bat accommodation by covering the inside walls and ceiling with semi-rigid small mesh nylon netting and any wire netting with sufficiently fine mesh.
  • For small bats a wooden cage 30cm x 15cm x 20cm high, divided into two sections is appropriate.
  • Smaller section about 10cm wide, with wooden hinged door on front (several 5mm ventilation holes in the bottom of the door).
  • Connected by 4cm diameter hole low down in connecting wall, near one corner to larger section.
  • Larger section with door on front which is mesh not solid wood.
  • N.B. It is vital to make sure that wood has not been pre-treated with chemical fungicides/insecticides.
  • Cover all internal walls and ceiling with plastic mesh for crawling and hanging.
  • Ensure plastic is well 'weathered' before use so any toxic solvents have evaporated.
  • Cloth or rough cardboard are possible alternative linings. (B231)
  • Line base with a removable plastic sheet.
  • Cover this with clean paper towel which may be replaced as often as necessary (e.g. twice daily).
  • Food dish is placed in larger area. (P19.1.w7, B168.7.w7)
  • For Horseshoe bats (Rhinolopus hipposideros - Lesser horseshoe bat, Rhinolopus ferrumequinum - Greater horseshoe bat), box about 50cm x 50cm x 80cm is required. (P19.1.w7)
  • Thin sheets of plastic foam (under which the bats can squeeze) may be pinned to the walls of boxes for species which seek out crevices.
  • (P19.1.w7, B168.7.w7, B231)

N.B. Prior to release bats should be provided with room to fly, for exercise and to demonstrate their ability to catch insects.

  • Daily exercise is important for bats to remain healthy. (B168.7.w7)
  • All bats should be provided with a daily opportunity to fly (if appropriate for their physical condition and if a suitable area is available). A large, closed room is an appropriate area, and the bat should be released within this for a time in the evening.
    • Make sure that a sign is placed outside any room where a bat is being exercised to reduce the risk of accidental opening of the door and escape of the bat.
    • Make sure that any ventilation systems with fan mechanisms have been switched off and that it is not possible for the bat to enter the ventilation system.

(B151, B168.7.w7, B169.15.w15, D24, D28, P19.1.w7, V.w5, V.w26)

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • Outdoor aviary.
  • Suggested dimensions: 2.5 x 5 x 2.5m high, with 5 x 10cm timbers and mesh sufficiently small to prevent bat escaping but large enough for insects to enter.
  • Safety porch (double door) access should be used to reduce the risk of escape, with only one door allowed to be open at any time.
  • Provide standard bat boxes for roosting. A removable roosting box 20cm x 30cm x 12.5cm has also been used successfully.
  • Two ultraviolet fluorescent bulbs, separated/backed by a reflecting cloth, hung from the roof of the cage to attract insects.
  • Lights may provide sufficient food for small numbers of bats.
  • Water in a trough on the floor, with a rough wooden ramp at a shallow angle for bats to climb out onto.
  • Mealworms in pots as supplementary food.
  • (B168.7.w7)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation may be particularly important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
  • Sterilisation: wooden cages may be sterilised regularly using a hypochlorite solution. (P19.1.w7)
  • Provision of warmth (34-36C), dark and quiet are important for intensive care. (D28)
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Bats, as other small mammals, are able to escape through very small gaps: accommodation should be escape proof, with a secure, close-fitting lid.
  • Horseshoe bats (Rhinolopus hipposideros - Lesser horseshoe bat, Rhinolopus ferrumequinum - Greater horseshoe bat) deprived of the opportunity to fly may injure themselves frantically trying to escape from cages, and also develop swollen wing joints after a few days without flying. (B168.7.w7)
  • Daily exercise (flying) is important for bats to remain healthy. (B168.7.w7)
  • Wood used for accommodation of bats must be untreated timber. (B231)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Plastic aquarium-type containers are widely available in pet stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction of medium-term accommodation (bat-box) requires some carpentry ability and construction of long-term accommodation requires some expertise.
Cost/ Availability
  • The cost of constructing medium and longer term accommodation is generally proportional to the strength and durability of construction materials used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960. (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01)
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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