Frequently asked questions

Why are bats protected?

There is considerable evidence that all species of bat in Britain have declined significantly this century, particularly since the 1960s. The reasons for the decline include: loss of suitable roost sites, loss of feeding habitat, reduced availability of insect prey through pesticide use and mortality resulting from the use of highly toxic timber treatment chemicals in house roosts.

I have bats in my attic; I know they are protected but I need to have the roof repaired, what should I do?

The presence of bats in the attic does not mean that necessary maintenance cannot be undertaken; however the timing and nature of the work are very important considerations. If you need to do any work which might affect a bat roost, you should contact Scottish Natural Heritage for advice on how best to proceed.

I've heard that bats can get caught in people's hair; is this true?

This is very rare. Bats have a very sophisticated ultra-sonic echolocation system which enables them to navigate in the dark and manoeuvre quickly in complex environments such as amongst the foliage of trees, whilst feeding on insects. Avoiding flying into a person's hair should be child's play to a bat!

Do bats cause damage to my house?

It is almost unknown for bats to cause damage to houses. They don't build nests like birds or chew cables and gnaw wood like mice.

Where do bats go in the winter?

During the winter, bats hibernate in cool, moist places such as caves, old mine-workings, cellars and disused tunnels. These places, known as hibernacula, are usually difficult to find as the bats tend to be well-concealed in crevices etc and leave no obvious signs of their presence. During periods of mild weather the bats may wake up in order to drink and feed and fly around.

What should I do if a bat gets into my living room?

Bats which get into the living space of houses are often disorientated juveniles. The best thing to do is to open all windows and doors wide and leave the room. The bat should find its way out of its own accord. If it does not, contact Scottish Natural Heritage for further advice. If you have bats roosting near to a window, it is advisable to keep that window shut while the bats are around, to minimise the chances of a bat entering the living space. You should not handle bats.

Do bats breed like mice?

No. Each adult female bat has only one (occasionally two) young in a given year and as pipistrelle maternity roosts are comprised almost entirely of adult females, even if all their young survived to adulthood, a colony could only increase by a theoretical maximum of around 50% per annum (half of the young born are males and these will roost separately in future years). In practice, the actual increase in the colony size is less than this, as not every female in the roost is likely to be pregnant and not all the youngsters will survive.

Are bats a health risk?

Bats, like other mammals can carry rabies, and the closely-related virus EBL is present in some British bats. However, the level of infection within the bat population is probably very low. Human infection can only occur after being bitten or scratched by an infected bat. As few people, including roost owners, have ever seen a bat at close quarters, there is minimal risk provided you do not touch or handle a bat.