If you find an injured, sick or orphaned bat in your neighbourhood who you gonna call?
Well, in the UK you call Bat Conservation Trust on 0345 1300 228 and they put you in contact with one of a small number of unpaid volunteers round the UK, like ouselves, who are able to come rescue the bat, look after it at home, and hopefully return it to the wild. Bats need to be looked after by someone who understands their needs and their biology, and is inoculated for rabies (yes a very very tiny number of bats have been found with the virus in the UK). If it needs to go to a vet for treatment or on operation we'll do that and pay any bills. We all do this at our own expense and in our own time. In particular Bristol Bat Rescue works closely with North Devon Bat Care who allow us to take bats to their flight cage if they need more time flying than we can give them in our front room (we want a bat to be able to fly well up to 20 minutes).
We cover part of South West England and South East Wales- from Gloucester down to Somerset and from Newport eastwards into Wiltshire. We can expect at least 100 bats a year- we get the odd rescue over the winter when the bats are hibernating but most rescues are during the spring-autumn. Up until June it is sick or injured adult bats. From mid June we start getting the baby bats who we will try and reunite with mum if possible; if not then we can hand-rear them on Royal Canin Puppy milk or goats milk- when they are very young this means 2 hourly feeds around the clock. In 2018 we took in 30 or so pups and were able to take 25 to the North Devon Bat Care flightcage for flight training.
Now in August we are getting calls for sick and injured (and worn out) pups who are learning to fly and getting into trouble. A number will die due to bad injuries- we can't save those but we can end their suffering ( a lot of people can't see the bad injuries we are able to, due to several years of experience of handling and living with bats everyday).As we go into October the calls will drop as the bats prepare for hibernation and the pups will be strong experienced flyers- every year we will overwinter some who were not ready to be released in the autumn.
One of the things we do is try to protect the public from contracting rabies, which is fatal. If someone handles a bat with unprotected hands and gets bitten or scratched as the bat tries to get away we need to get them talking to the health authorities about getting inoculation shots as soon as possible.
We also do a lot of public education work- most people appear to have very little knowledge of bats, and a lot belief the myths e.g.. that bats are blind. and are flying mice. So we go to public events, give talks , go to schools and small groups etc.
Most of what we do is being paid for by ourselves- we are trying to fundraise to get enough money to cover our costs: vet bills; petrol; wear and tear on the cars; equipment; food for bats; training costs. We calculate that on average each bat costs us £20.
If you would like to see what we do please go to https://www.facebook.com/bristolbatrescue/
We'll be very grateful for any help you can give us. Unfortunately there are not many of us around to do this work, so there's no way to make the task easier, but if we can get help with what is costs us that would be brilliant.