Horseshoe bat

Life of a Bat Carer – Part 2: Rehabilitation and Release

In the previous article on this series, we discussed the training required to become a bat carer and the various stages associated with rescuing a bat. If you missed it, you can read it here. This second part of the series will focus on the rehabilitation and release of a bat that is in care.

Bats and their injuries

Most bats that come into care have some form of injury; however, there are a couple of a injuries that, as bat carers, we see most often. About 50% of bats that come in to bat rehabilitation centres are bats that have been caught by cats.

The two most common injuries:

Checking wing for damage
Reference: Ashley Dale, Bristol Bat Rescue, 2018
Broken Bone in Wing
Reference: Ashley Dale, Bristol Bat Rescue, 2018

Which one do you think the bat can survive from? 

This bat died from a cat attack (Reference: Sue Harlow, Cornwall Bat Care, 2018)
This bat died from a cat attack. Reference: Sue Harlow, Cornwall Bat Care, 2018

Bats have the fastest healing mammal membrane in the world so tears in the wings, with care and time, can heal easily and bats can still often fly with such injuries.

Broken bones are injury bats will sadly get euthanised for having, as they are so tiny it is almost impossible to make a splint that would be effective. It would not be fair to keep the individual in pain just for the chance that the bone may heal.

However, sometimes bat carers can fix broken bones. The Bat World Sanctuary has developed a method for splinting a broken forearm, and have had some success.

I HAVE A CAT: Steps you can take to stop your cat catching bats!

Domestic catIf you have a cat that loves catching wildlife and has brought in bats before, then there is one easy thing you as an owner can do to prevent this:

Feed your cat inside at dusk and dawn; if you do this then you are keeping your cat inside during the time that bats are most vulnerable to being caught when they leave and return to their roost. If you can keep your cat indoors all night, then that’s even better!

Bats grounded with no obvious injuries

Pipistrelle bat. Reference Stew Rowden, Bristol Bat Rescue, 2018.
Pipistrelle bat. Reference: Stew Rowden, Bristol Bat Rescue, 2018.

If there is a bat with no injuries, keeping them for a few days is vital as they may have internal injuries. They will be rehydrated, fed and test flown. It is better that they be in a comfortable environment rather than be released back into the wild to then die in a matter of days due to injuries unseen by the carer.

Often grounded bats are juvenile bats still learning the ropes of being an adult bat without the help of mum. Most grounded bats will be monitored over a few days then released back where they were found.

Test Fly the Bat

If there are no internal injuries, the next step is to test fly the bat. The Bat Conservation Guidelines suggest that a bat must fly for at least 8 minutes with no signs of fatigue before the bat carer can decide to release them back into the wild.

Age of the bat for release

If the bat is ready to go back to the wild, the age of the bat must be considered.

If it is an adult bat then it MUST go back to where you found it, or as near to the place as possible.

If the bat is a pup, it must be weaned off milk (NOT cow’s milk – they are given Royal Canin puppy/cat formula. You must NEVER give a wild animal cow’s milk, unless it’s a cow of course!).

It will then be trained to fly within a suitable flight cage. It does not matter where the bat is released as long as the habitat is of superb quality and the individual is released with other bats of a similar age and species. Soft release is where they can return to the flight cage, where food and water are provided for them until they are ready to survive without human assistance.

If a pup can be reunited with its mother, then this is always better than hand-rearing; however, with the lack of bat carers and bat ambulance drivers, this does not always happen.

Release back into the wild

The last health assessment should be done the day before the chosen release day. The weather, temperature and the time of year must be considered. If it is raining and below 10 degrees, these are unsuitable conditions for release. Spring, summer and early autumn tend to be the best seasons to release bats. Some bat carers believe that if the bat is at a suitable weight and the temperature is mild, then bats can also be released during the winter.

It is also vital to give the bat a few mealworms guts (to provide energy and minimise weight, as a full bat may not feel like flying) and syringe feed the bat water before it is released back into the wild, to give the bat the best possible chance.

Video of a bat release – Bristol Bat Care, 2018:

WANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH BAT CARE?!

There is always a need for bat carers or bat ambulance drivers all across the UK, check out the links below!

How to get involved with bat care:

http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/batcare.html

https://www.bristolbatrescue.co.uk/

BCT Emergency Number. Reference: Ashley Dale, Bristol Bat Care, 2018
BCT Emergency Number. Reference: Ashley Dale, Bristol Bat Care, 2018

If you liked reading this article, please read our other batty blogs:

Bat ID     Bat Survey Information
What to do if you find a bat     Is Bat Mitigation Successful?