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Wildlife crusaders enter the bat cave

[Monday 23 August 2010]

Bats will be stirred from their slumber to help conservationists keep tabs on their welfare.

The Forestry Commission is mounting a survey to check over 200 bat boxes in its woodlands in North Yorkshire in a mission to map the species living locally.

Bats have suffered a dramatic decline in the 20th century and are on the European Protected Species list together with otters and the dormouse.

However, in woods like Dalby Forest, near Pickering, and Wykeham Forest, near Scarborough, new bat-friendly habitats have been created.

Until recently eight species were known to exist locally including Common and Soprano Pipistrelle, Noctule, Natterer’s, Brown Long Eared, Daubenton’s, Whiskered and Brandt’s.

However, earlier this year another species was added to the list when researchers discovered the tiny Alcathoe’s bat in Forestry Commission woodland in the west of the North York Moors National Park.

Brian Walker, Forestry Commission Wildlife Officer, said:

“Many of our woods are real bat hotspots and have become a centre of research. Not only was the Alcathoe’s bat found locally, but work in our woods also confirmed that the Pipistrelle is in fact two species, with different behavioural and physical characteristics.

“Checking boxes is best way to find out more about how the creature is faring. Most of the babies will have left by now so we are not disturbing young families.”

Rangers carrying out the survey are licensed to undertake this kind of work. After scaling ladders, bats found in the boxes are carefully lowered to the floor where they are sexed and the species noted and checked to see if they have been previously ringed. Experts will also check a hibernaculum built in Dalby Forest – a real life bat cave – designed to give the animal a good place to over-winter.

Mick Douch, Chief Wildlife Ranger, added:

“Bats are doing well this year with plenty of insects around. The last very cold winter was really good news for them as it sent them into a deep sleep. The worst thing that can happen is for a mild winter to cause bats to awaken too early when moths are not on the wing to provide food.”

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