Bats are protected, so it is normally illegal to keep healthy, flying bats, and a licence is needed to handle them. However, anyone who finds a bat which is obviously ill or injured may take care of it in whatever way is most humane and practical with the objective or returning it to the wild.
If you find a bat it is extremely important to record who found the bat, exactly where it was found and the circumstances with your local Bat Group as soon as possible. They can send an experienced and trained person to collect and care for the bat as well as providing you with advice on how to care for it properly in the interim. The Northern Ireland bat group can be contacted through their website or by calling Donna Allen on +4479 0292 9368.
The most important initial care for the bat is provide water and warmth. Grounded bats are likely to be injured or otherwise incapacitated. Do not put a grounded bat outside without proper assessment of the situation, and never put it into the loft, which may be totally unsuitable. Use gloves, or a cloth to handle the bat as they may try to bite. Shock and dehydration can be fatal but here are a few guidelines which will help a grounded bat survive.
If it very important to offer water; this may be enough to revive the bat. Water can be given on a small, clean paintbrush, cotton bud or a plastic spoon. It is best not to put a post of water in with the bat.
Bats need to be warm before feeding, they may therefore need warming up. Mealworms (available from pet food shops) are the best food for bats but are often difficult to obtain; small chunks of meaty cat food is an alternative. Bats usually need hand feeding at first.
If there are no injuries the bat should be released as soon as it is able to fly well enough. This must be close to where it was found, at the same spot if possible and in mild, dry weather at dusk. The sooner a fit bat is released the better its chance of survival. Do not throw the bat, ensure it is warm and place it in your open palm and hold it up.
- Place the bat in a small, secure container, with no gaps larger than 5mm (1/4 in), such as a large margarine or ice-cream tub or a shoe box; make sure there are adequate air-holes. Line the container with kitchen paper, or soft cloth, for the bat to hang on to.
- Keep the bat in a warm place, where it can use all its energy for recovery. A dark airing cupboard is ideal.
- Handle the bat as little as possible initially, and keep it somewhere quiet. Do not expose it to extremes of temperature, nor movement which may exacerbate its condition.
- If the bat is to be kept longer than for a few house, water should be offered regularly.
Bats in torpor can be mistaken for dead: ensure the bat is dead first. Please send any freshly dead bats for analysis to: Rabies Diagnostics,
Central Veterinary Laboratory
Enclose as much information on the bat as you can, such as where it was found, when, how, its condition and species etc. Pack the bat in a tightly sealed, leak-proof container with absorbent material. Mark the package “Pathological Specimen; Handle with Care” and a large red R. Contact the local bat group if you have any worries as they may have an arrangement regarding collection for delivery for CVL.