Containing a bat
If you can safely reach the bat, the next step is to contain it in a box. It may sound daunting, but it's really not that complicated! In fact, 90% of people who have contained bats according to our method describe the experience as "easy" or "very easy."
"It was so easy to rescue the bat, and make it safe. It just involved using everyday items from my kitchen, and was no trouble."
– a bat finder who contacted the National Bat Helpline
Start by creating a bat care box. You will need:
- A shoe box, with holes punched in the lid (or container of equivalent size)
- A cloth or teatowel
- A plastic bottle cap (milk bottle tops are perfect)
You may be able to get the bat into the box without touching it, as described below. But if you do need to touch it, please WEAR GLOVES due to the small risk of rabies transmission. You're very unlikely to be bitten or scratched if you follow our procedure, but if it does happen, please seek immediate medical advice.
There’s no evidence that bats in the UK carry any coronaviruses that can be passed to humans. However, we don’t yet know whether humans can pass the Covid-19 virus to wild animals. So, for the bat’s protection, we’d recommend that you cover your nose and mouth when you contain the bat. It doesn’t have to be a proper medical mask – you can use a tea towel or T-shirt.
- If possible, contain the bat as you would a spider, by placing the box on top of it and sliding a piece of card underneath. If that's not possible, cover the bat with a soft cloth, such as a tea towel, and carefully scoop it up and place it in your bat care box. (It's especially important to wear gloves if you use the second method.)
- Put a tea towel or soft cloth in the box for the bat to hide under.
- Prepare a bat "water dish." Take a small, shallow container such as a plastic milk bottle top or furniture caster and add just a few drops of water (not enough for the bat to drown in). Put this in the box so the bat can help itself to a drink. Make sure the water is topped up regularly. Please do not add any food to the box (bats have a specialised diet and do not need fruit).
- Keep the bat indoors somewhere quiet and dark while you call the National Bat Helpline. Please keep pets and children away from the box.
There's no need to give the bat any food, or to put anything in the box besides the cloth and water.
Please don't release the bat before getting further advice.
What if the bat is flying around?
Close the doors in the room it's in, wait for it to land (it will) and then contain it according to the instructions above. Never try to catch a bat in flight, as you may hurt both yourself and the bat.
What if it's too high to reach?
You should never risk your safety to contain a bat. Please try phoning the SPCA for your country (RSPCA, SSPCA or USPCA) and explaining the situation. Unfortunately, as BCT don't run a bat rescue service, we aren't able to help with bats at height.
What if it's stuck to something?
If the bat is stuck to flypaper or a fishhook, do not try to remove it. Put on heavy gloves, take down the fly/rodent paper or fishing line (cut the line if necessary) and place the bat in the box along with the flypaper or hook. If the bat is on flypaper, do not include a tea towel in the box, but do include water.
It is essential that a bat in this situation gets help as soon as possible, so please call the National Bat Helpline straightaway. If the Helpline is closed, please take the bat immediately to your nearest vet. (All vets are required to provide an out-of-hours service, so if your local vet is shut, please check their website or ring their number and listen to their recorded message for information on out-of-hours care.)
I saw a bat in my house, but now I don't know where it is. What should I do?
Bats naturally seek shelter when they stop flying and will often hide in crevices to feel safe. Try looking high and low within the room, in small spaces such as behind picture frames and furniture, between blinds and in the folds of curtains, in wardrobes, etc. We always say that if you can get your finger into a gap, then a bat can get through it too.
A bat trapped in a building will eventually go in search of water, so check your sinks and bathtubs (you may want to keep toilet lids down until the bat is found). You may be able to encourage the bat to come out by leaving a milk bottle lid with a few drops of water in the room where it was last seen. Keep internal doors closed so the bat can't move from room to room.
What if I don't feel able to contain the bat?
Unfortunately, as we don't operate a bat rescue service, we aren't able to arrange for anyone to come and contain the bat for you. We'd recommend asking friends, family and neighbours if they can help.
If you phone the National Bat Helpline and the bat isn't contained, the staff member or volunteer you speak to will talk you through the containment process and give you some encouragement, but unfortunately won't be able to offer an alternative to containing the bat.
Please understand that the person you speak to is doing the best they can to help you and the bat with the resources available. We take over 8,000 calls a year from people who have found grounded or injured bats, and strive to treat every caller with courtesy and respect. We ask that callers please do the same for us.