Wise Up to Bats

Awareness of protected species and their habitats

Over this winter we are busy updating and refreshing our managers and supervisors with Protected Species Awareness Training. Bats were a particular topic of discussion at a recent event in Bristol.

Why Bats?

With foliage absent from trees it is a good time to complete ground-based preliminary surveys for potential roost features in advance of any work which may affect this protected species.

Because so many species of bat in the UK are endangered or rare, ALL species of bats have full protection with both bats and their roosts being protected under legislation.

Bats tend to return to the same roosts every year and these sites are protected whether the bats are present or not.

The most common UK bat is the pipistrelle. It is only 40mm long and weighs about 5 grams.

What to look for:

  • Frost cracks, trunk and branch splits, woodpecker holes, rot holes where branches have been removed, hollow sections of trunk, branches and roots, loose bark, dense epicormic growth and dense ivy.
  • Every mature tree is a potential bat.
  • Signs of roosting bats may be indicated by staining around a feature (cavity or split) caused by the natural oils in bat fur, scratch marks around a feature (cavity or split) caused by bat claws, droppings beneath a hole (these resemble mouse droppings but crumble to dust when rubbed between finger and thumb), urine stains below the entrance or end of split, audible squeaking from within the feature (cavity or split).

Why be vigilant?

Avoid prosecution: it is a criminal offence for anyone to:

  • Intentionally kill, injure or handle a bat.
  • Possess a bat (whether live or dead).
  • Disturb a roosting bat.
  • Damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place used by bats for shelter, whether they are present or not.

Breaking the law can lead to fines of up to £5000 per bat and/or up to 6 months in prison.

If you think you have found a bat or a bat roost on site:


IMMEDIATELY STOP all works in the area and inform your line manager.


DON’T try to touch or handle a bat – they can carry rabies. If you must handle them for animal welfare reasons do so wearing protective gloves.