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Bats and the Law

In Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, by both domestic and international legislation.

This means you will be committing a criminal offence if you:

  1. Deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat
  2. Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats
  3. Damage or destroy a bat roosting place (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time)
  4. Possess or advertise/sell/exchange a bat (dead or alive) or any part of a bat
  5. Intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost

 Table detailing the legal and conservation status of all UK bats

Please refer to the legislation for the precise wording - the above is a brief summary only.

How to Report a Bat Crime

Licencing

Licences to permit illegal activities relating to bats and their roost sites can be issued for specific purposes and by specific licensing authorities in each country.  These are sometimes called 'derogation licences' or 'European Protected Species' licences, and are issued under the Habitats Regulations. It is an offence not to comply with the terms and conditions of a derogation licence.  If you carry out work affecting bats or roosts without a licence, you will be breaking the law.

Who needs to take particular note of the legislation?

Which legislation is relevant for bats and roosts?

  • In England and Wales, the relevant legislation is the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (as amended); the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000; the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC, 2006); and by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010).
  • In Scotland, the key legislation that applies is the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended).
  • In Northern Ireland bats are listed under Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 and in the Republic of Ireland, under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife Act 1976 and Schedule 1 of the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997.

Defences include:

  1. Tending/caring for a bat solely for the purpose of restoring it to health and subsequent release
  2. Mercy killing where there is no reasonable hope of recovery (provided that person did not cause the injury in the first place - in which case the illegal act has already taken place).

Penalties on conviction - the maximum fine is £5,000 per incident or per bat (some roosts contain several hundred bats), up to six months in prison, and forfeiture of items used to commit the offence, eg vehicles, plant, machinery.

Reporting a Bat Crime

Last updated March 11.

Find out more


Bats and the Law (1 MB) - 04/03/12
A basic introduction to the legal protection of bats in the British Isles.

Bats and the Law - A handy quick reference guide for batworkers (239 KB) - 01/06/08
A basic introduction to the legal protection of bats in the British Isles presented in a quick reference guide.

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Bat Helpline

0845 1300 228