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Baby pipistrelle bats being hand-reared by RSPCA

18/07/2011 16:37:58
uk/uk_2010/rspca_bat_feed

One of the baby bats being hand reared by the RSPCA

Pipistrelle bats

—Pipistrelles are the smallest and most common British bats.

—There are two species of pipistrelle: the common pipistrelle and the soprano pipistrelle, which has a higher frequency echolocation call, used to hunt for prey.

—A single pipistrelle can eat 3,000 insects in just one night!

An adult pipistrelle weighs on average just 5 grams - about the same as a 20p piece. In the summer they tend to roost in buildings, bat boxes and trees. In the winter they also use trees and buildings, as well as large churches and cellars. Babies are born in June and July.

Baby pipistrelle bats
July 2011. Five baby common pipistrelle bats, only a few weeks old and weighing just a few grams each, are being hand-reared by staff at RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre near Taunton, Somerset.

The bats, nicknamed Bella, Gollum, Bart, Bert and Grump by staff, were each no bigger than a human thumbnail when they were brought in. Bella and Gollum were found after they crawled from their roosts to seek warmth during a spell of cold weather, Bert and Bart fell down a chimney and Grump was found alone in an abandoned roost.

Bella was found at Hill Farm, in Stawley, Somerset, when she was just a few days old and weighed only 2 grams. Farm workers Anya Kean, 21 and Kristina Marck, 23, both from New Zealand, discovered the bat in their cottage on Saturday, June 18.

Anya said: "I noticed it lying on the floor and thought it was a plastic toy at first, then I realised it was a real bat. It was tiny, only about 3 or 4 centimetres. I picked it up and it was very cold so I wrapped it in a sock to warm it."

RSPCA Inspector Amanda Swift came to collect the bat the next day and take it to RSPCA West Hatch. Inspector Swift said: "I've never come across such a young bat before. When I got there they handed me this sock and I couldn't even see the bat, it was so small. It was hiding right in the toe of the sock. Then it just crawled out and sat in my hand; it wasn't in any way perturbed. It was the tiniest thing I've ever seen - no bigger than a 10p piece, but perfectly formed."

RSPCA wildlife assistant Michelle Reeves is now hand-rearing Bella along with Gollum, who was found next to an Aga oven in a West Sussex home.

Michelle said: "He was in a real mess; you could see his little ribs. He only weighed 1.6 grams and he was very emaciated and covered in mites. I put him on three-hourly feeds and he really took to it; he now weighs 3.1 grams."

Bella has also responded well to feeding (unlike Grump, who was given his nickname because of his reluctance to feed or come out of his living quarters). She now weighs 4.2 grams and will soon be ready to start flying. She can practice in the bat flight area at RSPCA West Hatch, where staff will monitor her progress. Once all the bats are fledged and healthy they will be released near to a known roost, where there is plenty of food available for them.

Pipistrelle babies born in June & July
Pipistrelle bats often roost inside properties, in chimneys or roof-spaces. Babies are born in June and July so it's at this time of year they're most likely to be found by members of the public. In colder weather, babies (usually those which have been orphaned) may crawl from the roost to seek warmth.

Peter Venn, manager of RSPCA West Hatch, said: "Bats that crawl from the roost will always look for somewhere dark and quiet but that doesn't necessarily mean it's secure - if they get under a cushion or a doormat they can quite easily be crushed."

Anyone who finds a baby bat away from its roost should call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the Bat Conservation Trust on 0845 1300 228 for advice. If a member of the public needs to look after a baby bat until it can be collected, it should be kept somewhere warm and secure so that it can't crawl or climb away. You should always wear protective gloves when handling a bat as a strain of the rabies virus has been found in a small number of British bats.

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