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Out of hours but not out of mind – volunteer for the Out of Hours Bat Helpline

19 January 2017

During office hours (9am – 5:30pm Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays) our National Bat Helpline team works tirelessly to answer a variety of bat related enquiries.  In 2016, the Helpline received over 12,000 enquiries and over 50% of those related to a bat being found in need of assistance (grounded, injured, orphaned, exposed etc.). 

 

However, bats can be found by members of the public at any time of day, including when the Helpline is closed.  During the months of May to September, when bats are most active, the Helpline also experiences its highest call numbers; during the height of the summer it helps an average of 300 bats per week. To ensure that emergency calls (bat care and bat crime) are dealt with after office hours, an Out of Hours Helpline (OOH) is in operation. This OOH service is manned by volunteers with training and support provided by the BCT Helpline staff.

 

The OOH service started in 2004 and since then it has been a huge success over the years, with 28 volunteers answering calls throughout the 2016 season. The weekday shifts run from 5:30pm to 10:30pm.  Calls can also be covered again by volunteers from 8am until the BCT Helpline is back online at 9am. Weekend days and bank holidays are split in two for volunteers: the first from 9am to 4pm, and the second shift from 4pm to 10:30pm. Each shift has a member of Helpline staff for back-up support and advice. Last season, the OOH service received 2,266 calls, the second highest on record (behind 2015 with 2,824). For the past three years the OOH service received over 2,000 calls each year (or more accurately during the 5 months that it is active), which highlights just how important this service is in helping those who find a bat in need to get the best advice.  Combined with the Bat Care Network, consisting of volunteers who are specialised in bat rehabilitation, it gives the best possible outcome for a large number of bats found in need of help.

 

‘’Thanks from East Lancashire Bat group to those who volunteered yesterday. Two bats got help via the helpline that would most likely have had to wait until Monday to be taken to a vet if the finders hadn't been able to speak to volunteers’’

 

The OOH role is certainly an important one, and BCT would like to thank everyone that has been able to assist this service during previous seasons. 

 OOH Volunteer John Burns covering a shift during 2016. Photo by his son at home.

 

Though it can be challenging, the OOH season is hugely rewarding when you’ve helped those who’ve found an injured bat hopefully get a second chance.

 

‘’The OOH season has been friendly, interesting, trying and often very busy, but every call has been different and it is great to know that there are so many kind and caring people all over the UK, and also that you can help to make a little bit of a difference too. I would love to do it all over again next year!’’ Helen Knight, OOH 2016 Volunteer.

 

Helping the Helpline in 2017

Fancy a go at helping bats get the assistance they need? Applications for the forthcoming OOH 2017 season are now open!  The OOH Project Description and Work Details are available to download here, and provide more information about what it means to volunteer for the project. Check out our webpage about OOH here.

 

Please note that participants will need to attend one of the Out of Hours training days:

8 April 2017 – London

29 April 2017 – Manchester

There is likely to be a third training session in May subject to availability.  These volunteers would join the OOH service from June.

 

Please register your interest by getting in touch with David Jackson by emailing enquiries@bats.org.uk or calling 0345 1300 228.

 

The OOH 2016 report can be downloaded here.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS:

 The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is the only national organisation solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats in the UK. Its network of 100 local bat groups and more than 1,000 bat workers survey roosts and hibernation sites, and work with householders, builders, farmers and foresters to protect bats. www.bats.org.uk

 

The Bat Helpline 0345 1300 228 is for anyone who needs help with bats. If you find a grounded or injured bat, believe bats to be at risk, think you may have bats or just want to let us know about a bat roost site please call the Bat Helpline. The Helpline Out of Hours (OOH) service started in 2004 and is funded by DEFRA.

 

All British bats are protected under British law, because of severe declines in bat numbers during the twentieth century. Loss of roosting habitat to development and construction, loss of foraging habitat as farming practice has changed (using pesticide and losing meadows and hedgerows)  and loss of hedgerows, waterways and commuting routes  linking the two all contributed to the declines in bat populations.

 

Because of widespread population declines and continued vulnerability, all British bat species are European protected species and afforded a high level of protection under both the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Deliberately capturing, disturbing, injuring and killing bats is prohibited, as is damaging or destroying their breeding sites and roosts.

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