This afternoon, a Pipistrelle bat was delivered to me by an estate worker. He’d collected the bat from a cottage where he was working. The cottage owner had found the bat grounded and, knowing it was still alive, put a rock on top of it to keep it in place… ‘because, he said: bats are full of diseases.’ The finder’s actions injured the female bat. Due to his ignorance and total misunderstanding of bats, the poor, innocent bat had to be pts.
Bats play a vital role in the ecosystem. They range from rain forests to deserts, pollinating and dispersing the seeds of hundreds of plants or eating quantities of insects: spiders, beetles, mosquitos, moths, and midges. One pipistrelle bat can consume 1,000’s of midges in one night. Our lives would be miserable without bats!
Bats are gardeners’ and farmers’ friends; eating many of the pest species that would destroy their valuable flowers and crops.
Bats are legally protected, and it is an offense to kill a bat.
Bats are not aggressive, although, like any wild animal, they may bite to defend themselves if handled. A bat that appears to be bearing its teeth is actually ‘scanning’ you with its unique method of echolocation – building up a picture of its environment by using a type of sonar, which is mostly inaudible to humans.
Bats can carry bacteria and viruses which can be harmful to humans, but the risk of infection is low. The only known zoonotic disease associated with bats in Britain is caused by infection with EBL: European Bat Lyssavirus. The risk is small, and there is no risk to the public if they do not handle bats. As with all wildlife, those who are not trained and vaccinated should not handle bats. There is no risk to you if you do not handle a bat, therefore there is no need to be concerned if you have bats roosting in your property or flying in your garden. If a bat needs to be rescued, as with all wild animals, wear thick gloves.
Here in the UK we do not eat bats or have flying foxes, but as has recently been found in other parts of the world, transmitting a virus from wild animals to humans is usually the result of ignorant and often cruel human activity. The outbreaks of diseases originating in wildlife seem to be growing more common as humans encroach upon the natural world. We are destroying their habitat, and in the process, we are stressing the animals. A virus that can live within bats or any other species without causing harm: may wreak havoc on people who catch, stack, buy, sell and eat these animals. The destruction of wildlife and natural habitat through deforestation, intensive farming, the exponential growth of the human population; and the intrusion into ancient forests and woodlands with our ever-expanding road systems: all these activities are continually forcing all wildlife: including bats, to live more closely and interact with humans than they would do naturally.