What if I find a grounded/injured bat or one indoors?
Grounded and injured bats
Sometimes bats are discovered on the ground. This can be for a number of reasons: after winter hibernation, bats can be weak so can be found grounded in the months of February or March; during the breeding season (July/August) young bats can make errors when learning to fly; bat roosts can be found by domestic cats (April-September) and some may be caught and used as playthings; some bats may be old or ill etc.
Bats are much smaller than people assume so don’t think that ‘your’ bat is a baby at first sight, in all probability, it will be full-size.
In many cases it may not be possible to rehabilitate the bat back to health but, depending on its condition, it should be investigated as an option. In the case of post winter exhausted or weak bats, these animals need to be fed and re-hydrated as soon as possible. This is usually done by feeding the animal mealworms or other such high-protein food until it has regained weight and full flight can be proven. In such cases, the Bat Group should be contacted for advice and our bat rehabilitation Carer will ensure that the animal is well cared for before release.
Young bats in the summer months may have more serious injuries and these would need to be assessed by a veterinary surgeon through the Bat Group before deciding on a course of action. If badly damaged by a cat, for instance, euthanasia may be necessary, however, each case should be adjudged separately as some injuries can be overcome and the bat may be able to be released back to the wild.
Handling grounded bats
As a precaution, grounded bats should only be picked up using gloves or a cloth to avoid being nipped. Using fabric will also allow the animal to be less stressed and feel more secure.
The legal situation
All bats are protected by law but this is flexible in relation to grounded bats and these animals are allowed to be cared for in order to release them or insure that they are humanely treated in captivity. However, the long-term care of bats should only be undertaken by an experienced, licensed Carer.
Bats in houses
Should a bat be found indoors, it may be as a result of one following an insect in through an open window or maybe one investigating if the house offers an option as a roosting site. Sometimes, if a roost is present in a building, a bat may go astray and enter the living area either through mistaking an open window for the roost entrance or a young animal wandering off to explore its surroundings when the mother is out feeding. In the latter case, these young animals can squeeze through very small cracks in ceilings or around plumbing pipes in airing cupboards etc. In any case, the situation is dealt with in the same manner:
First, close the door of the room in which the bat is seen and open any windows, drawing aside any curtains or drapes and turning off the light. This often allows a flying bat a means of remaining calm and a chance to escape. A flying bat should never be chased as this only makes it panic and prolongs the situation. Should the bat continue to fly, it should be watched until it comes to rest (usually in the pleats of curtains) or becomes grounded (some species find it difficult to take-off again from the floor). It should then be caught in a towel or other cloth and carried outside. Place it high, at arms reach, on a wall or tree. This should allow the bat to regain flight. However, some bats take their time so keep a watch on the animal for 15 minutes and if it fails to fly then recapture it and contact the Bat Group for further advice.
Should a bat be discovered indoors during the daytime, then it should be retained in a secure, escape-proof, container until dusk and released in the same way outside. While in captivity, the bat should be given a cloth within the box as a secure area into which it can crawl and water can be provided in a shallow dish (a jam jar lid is the easiest) so that it has a drink. This prevents predation by cats or birds during daylight hours. The bat will remain torpid during the day but should become more energetic as night approaches. At dusk, it can be aided by warming it up by wrapping it gently in a cloth or holding it in a gloved hand so that it absorbs heat before being released.
Finding, Removing and Releasing a bat from your home
How to safely capture, remove and release a bat from your home or workplace.
Taken from Knowing, Studying and Conserving the Bats of Ireland - an interactive DVD by Conor Kelleher & Jim Wilson.