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

19 January 2018

The National Bat Helpline (a service ran by BCT during office hours) is often the first line of contact for many members of the public that need help with a bat or have bat-related queries. In 2016 alone, the National Bat Helpline team answered a staggering 14,781 enquiries. In 2017, nearly half of those enquiries related to bats that were found injured, orphaned or grounded and needed someone to help care for them.

 However bats can find themselves in all sorts of trouble and not just doing office hours. This is particularly true during the busiest period of their lives, from May – September (see A Year in the Life of a Bat here http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/a_year_in_the_life_of_a_bat.html ). It’s no coincidence that these are also the months the Bat Helpline receives the largest volume of calls with some weeks reaching over 300 calls; so to ensure that emergency advice is available when the Helpline is closed and that bats get the help they need, an Out of Hours (OOH) Helpline operates during May -September. This OOH service has been running successfully since 2004 and is manned entirely by volunteers who after being trained by BCT staff, advise members of the public when bats need rescuing.

 So here is a breakdown of how it works; during weekdays, volunteers answer calls from 5:30pm to 10:30pm. During weekends and bank holidays ‘Bat Watch’ is split into three shifts (9am-1:30pm, 1:30-6pm, 6-10:30pm). Each Bat Watch (on both weekdays and weekends) always has a member of Helpline staff for back-up support and advice.

The OOH Helpline was the second busiest in 2017 with 39 volunteers answering a huge 2334 calls, which highlights just how important this service is in helping those who find a bat and need to get the best advice. The OOH 2017 report can be downloaded here.

 

How to volunteer for the 2018 season (and why you should)

We are now recruiting for volunteers to help us with the Out of Hours season beginning May 2018! Please note that all participants will need to attend one of the Out of Hours training days in April 2018:

Saturday 7 April- London

Saturday 14 April- York

 BCT are able cover travel expenses up to £100 and provide lunch and refreshments.

 

If you are interested in volunteering for OOH 2018, please contact Hannah Van Hesteren by emailing outofhours@bats.org.uk or calling 0345 1300 228. We will contact you when details of training 2018 have been finalised to offer you the opportunity to apply.

 The OOH helpline can sometimes be challenging but having the opportunity to help save bats and speak to members of the public can also very rewarding. The OOH project is very supportive and encouraging to volunteers and there is a sense of community between all those involved. It would not be possible to run such a service without the volunteers and their help is hugely appreciated. If you don’t believe us read one of our volunteer’s testimonial:

 ‘’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 Volunteer.

 

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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