The following advice is based on Avon Bat Group carers' experiences and information from other sources such as Bat World and Maggie Brown, West Yorkshire Bat Hospital. It is intended as a memory aid for people we have trained.
Anyone wanting to be a bat carer should be aware of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. By following the bat care guidelines published by Bat Conservation Trust you will be seen to be working within the Act. The RSPCA published a useful overview of how the Act applies to wildlife rehabilitation- go to http://science.rspca.org.uk/sciencegroup/wildlife/reportsandresources/rehabilitation
We also recommend that anyone interested in becoming a bat carer trains up with an experienced carer first- phone the Bat Conservation Trust and they can provide you details of your local carers.
Examine the whole bat for injuries, blowing the fur gently to reveal the skin and gently opening the wings to check for holes, tears and breaks. Legs, thumbs and ability to walk should be assessed.
Weighing the bat, identifying the species and sexing it can help. If in doubt, seek advice from a more experienced carer or a vet.
Injuries can often be treated; almost all tears will heal even if the look catastrophic. Broken bones can sometimes be treated; seek immediate vetinary advice.
Antibiotics are essential if a bat has been attacked by a cat; consult a vet. Baytril is suitable except in pups and pregnant/ lactating bats, so in that case, Synulox can be used. Metacam for pain relief. Must see a vet for all medication. Consultations for wildlife should be free, as should euthanasia. Treatments, medication and x-rays can be charged for as agreed with vet.
Rescue remedy e.g. lectade, or if unavailable, water - use a dropper/pipette/clean paint brush not cotton wool buds
Small cap from milk bottle for water dish in cage.
Mealworms - most petshops.
Short term mealworms direct from a shop are OK but for longer periods, you need to feed the worms on a bat friendly diet - Kitten biscuits and fruit with vitamins and added calcium.
Meal worms should be offered once the bat is warm and hydrated, initially with heads removed. You might need to squeeze the juice out.
Leave mealworms de-capped with bat and once it recognises them as food the bat will feed itself. You can then try live mealworms if you wish. Keep them in a dish they can't climb out but the bat can access.
Wax worms can also be offered but are not as nutritious and are more calorific so good for helping a very underweight bat.
Royal Canin puppy milk formula is currently considered the best option. Do not use Esbilac- it is no longer suitable for baby bats and will lead to metabolic bone disease and death. You can use other milk in emergency (e.g full fat goat's milk) but do not use cows' milk.
When mixing milk powder, use 1 part powder to 3 parts water (not boiling water). Ensure made up formula is stored in the fridge between feeds, and heat up the required amount for feeds. A baby pipistrelle will likely drink 0.5-1ml per feed. They need to be fed approximately every two hours around the clock when very young. By 3-4 weeks old you should be able to reduce this to every four hours- as they get older they drink more and need less regular feeds. You need to judge this by each bat- they will let you know how hungry they are.
Weaning should start around 3-4 weeks, where meal worm innards are offered either mixed into the milk or separate. A good sign your bat is ready for solids is it trying to eat your pastette/ brush! It's best to offer both milk and mealworms at every feed, though you may alternate. Always feed some fluid.
Don't leave milk in a dish; it will go off on the heat. As the bat weans, water and fresh dead mealworms can be left in. Water should be supplemented with Zol-Cal D as calcium deprivation is common.
If babies become bloated, offer only water and ensure they are warm. If transporting babies ensure they have had an hour to digest their food on heat.
Habistat Heat Mat. 102x127 4"x5" 4W Around £15 – try reptile shop and websites. Place on a towel UNDER the box/ flexarium or stuck to the OUTSIDE back.
Apart from offering heat to overwintered bats that have a cool place to hibernate, sick bats need heat. This is essential if they are medication to ensure it is metabolised.
Rescue and release:
Hot water bottle - remember to wrap in a non-looped cloth (dusters, tea towels).
Instant heat packs - one use products such as Hot Coal or rechargeable ones (from camping/outdoor shops).
Bats must be warm before attempting a release at or near to rescue site and the bat should fly off on its own not be forced. Release just after dusk, later for light sensitive bats.
Babies should be placed on a hot water bottle in a cat litter tray off the ground, e.g. on a car by its known roost and observed from just before sunset. Hopefully mum will collect. Do not attempt more than two nights as mum's milk will dry up within 48 hours of being separated from her pup.
Exo Terra Flexarium – 38 gallon suitable for BLE or Pips £30
The 100 gallon version is a mini flight cage
Fabric cat/ dog carriers e.g. http://www.petsathome.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/pets/fabric-kennel-for-cats-and-dogs
For Indoor flight - a mosquito net can provide quite a big area but remember to wash it first to get rid of the anto-mossie coating. Can also fly in your house but ensure no gaps especially in walls, above rails and under doors. Beware of radiators and behind cupboards and ensure the bat cannot escape into such a place.
Outdoor/rehab flight cage - currently we can use a RSPCA flight cage.
Transport and Sleeping
Small mammal Carriers - eg hamster and rats - remember to check for gaps or slots that are big enough to let the bat escape - available from most pet shops
Shoeboxes or similar - remember to put in air holes.......
Bird/small mammals bags can be useful - British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is a good source
Use dusters, teatowels and Oven Gloves for hiding places and shading - don't use looped towels as the claws get caught in the loops but for rescue - take a small towel to dry off wet bats.
If you are a vet it is likely you will have a bat brought into you from time to time. Most vets have very little experience with bats and do not know how to treat them (e.g. a lot of vets scruff bats- you should not do this as they are built differently to other mammals). We recommend that you get a copy of the Bat Conservation Trust's guidelines for your information, and feel free to contact local bat carers for assistance with assessing, treating and releasing bats back to the wild.
And please be aware of our comments above regarding Euro lyssa virus/Rabies- do not handle bats without gloves. Latex/cotton gloves are suitable for small bats, but the bigger bats require leather gloves. Our bat carers use RAF flying gloves- they are bite proof and allow a degree of flexibility
Maggie (or Bryan) Brown, West Yorkshire Bat Hospital, 10 North Avenue, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS21 1AJ. Tel:01943 466101 (don't be put off by the answer machine, leave your message, If it is urgent and they are there they will pick up)
Bat Care Manual - Maggie Brown, West Yorkshire Bat Hospital
Bat Care Guidelines - A Guide To Bat Care For Rehabilitators, The Bat Conservation Trust- is available online, alongside an update, and we hold some copies and a PDF. Please note that is a new edition in 2016- not available online yet but all Bat Conservation Trust registered carers should have a copy now.
Bat Worker’s Manual by JNCC £20 to buy or free to download from http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-2861#download chapter 7 is the relevant bit
Captive Care and Medical Reference for the Rehabilitation of Insectivorous Bats by Amanda Lollar ISBN: 096382483X £100 but Heidi has a copy if we need to refer to it.
Bats: Biology and Behaviour by John Altringham
A Guide to British Bats – reference ID Key by Katie Jones published by Field Studies Council
British Bats (Colins New Naturalist) by John D. Altringham ISBN: 000220147 Not in print but can be printed to order
Information on treatment for bats, especially for vets with limited experience of treating bats: Handling and Care of British Bat by Steve Bexton & David Couper: In Practice June 2010 Link
Information for bat carers, vets and vet nurses as a Word File Nursing the wild bat
Text reproduced with the kind permission of British Veterinary Nursing Association (BNVA) and first appeared in the February 2007 issue of VNJ