Hibernation Survey COVID-19 guidance

Updated 12th November 2021

If you have an appropriate bat class licence you may take part in the NBMP Hibernation Survey, provided you can do so while complying with current government instructions for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey or Alderney as appropriate, and while following important guidance relating to the safety of bats (see below).

The government instructions vary for each country/island, so please ensure you click on the relevant link above and carefully read the current guidance. Please also ensure you follow any local lockdown guidance in your survey area.

Important guidance relating to safety to bats

This guidance relates to assessing whether to proceed with hibernation surveys from the point of view of the safety to bats. The IUCN Bat Specialist Group has highlighted that there is a low but credible risk of human-to-bat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). It is vital to follow all the mitigation measures to reduce risks to bat populations.

The IUCN Bat Specialist Group has produced guidance and risk assessments for assessing whether to go ahead with bat surveys that involve close proximity to bats (https://www.iucnbsg.org/bsg-publications.html). We have carried out a risk assessment at the UK level and, as of 12th November 2021, the overall assessment came out as “amber” (medium risk), indicating that risks can be mitigated but surveyors must proceed with caution.

This simply assesses the overall climate in which we are reinstating the NBMP Hibernation Survey after it was suspended in winter 2020/21. It does not replace individual assessments at the regional, survey team and site level; it is ESSENTIAL that these are carried out by the survey organiser/leader to assess whether to survey each site.

Even while the NBMP Hibernation Survey is resuming it may be the case that many sites do not pass the bat safety test for surveys to take place currently.

We have produced three forms designed to assist surveyors with carrying out assessments of risks to bats and recommended precautions:

NBMP Hibernation Survey Covid RA 1 – the IUCN risk assessment turned into a form including links to information and suggested benchmarks for the UK
NBMP Hibernation Survey Covid RA 2 – a site-specific form to assess the extent to which it is possible to minimise risks to bats at each site
NBMP Hibernation Survey Covid RA 3 – a checklist of precautions you should take when surveying sites that have been identified as appropriate to survey

We have also updated our risk assessment template for surveyors to include COVID-related risks to people.

The above risk assessment forms can be downloaded here.

BCT will regularly reassess the risk level at the UK scale and if this changes to high (red) then it is likely that we will request that surveyors postpone their NBMP Hibernation Survey visits until the overall risk level returns to amber or green level.

We will keep NBMP Hibernation Survey volunteers updated on any changes to the status of the survey.