How do I get started?

The basics

What role can I play on the Bat Care Network?

Volunteers on the Network serve in one of three capacities:

  1. As carers, who look after grounded or injured bats until they are fit for release.
  2. As ambulance drivers, who collect bats and deliver them to carers. To register as an ambulance driver, you’ll need to find a carer on the Network who agrees to work with you. If you don’t know any carers in your area, please contact your local bat group.
  3. As part of a regional helpline. These are organisations, usually associated with local bat groups, which have agreed to provide a single point of contact for all bat care calls in their area. If you live in one of the areas below, please contact the bat group to enquire about working with their helpline. There is no need to register separately with BCT.

We also include veterinary practices and wildlife hospitals on the Network if they can verify that any staff handling bats will be trained and vaccinated against rabies. If you work for a vet practice or wildlife hospital and would like to join the Network, please contact the Bat Care Co-Ordinator directly.

How much time will I need to devote to volunteering?

To some extent, this will depend on how many bats you’re able to take, how far you want to travel and whether you hand-rear pups. However, bat care is a major commitment and you should expect to devote a significant amount of your free time to it, particularly in summer.

Can I do bat care for work experience or as a student placement?

Unfortunately, this is not practical because of the time and training needed.

I’m under 18, can I join the Network?

You need to be at least 18 to join the Bat Care Network because of the responsibility involved. Your local bat group may offer ways for younger people to help bats, so please contact them!

Do I need a car to join the Network?

You don’t need a car to be a carer. You can use public transport or simply ask finders to bring bats to you. However, if you’re registering to be an ambulance driver, you do need to have your own transportation (hence the name!).

How much space will I need to be a carer?

Like the time commitment, this depends partly on how many bats you’ll take in. However, you’ll need enough space to house each bat in its own flexi-cage or tank and to store your supplies, as well as a place where bats can practice flying. We also strongly recommend having a separate room or outbuilding where you can put any bats that need to be kept in isolation.

What supplies do I need to get started as a carer?

The exact equipment used varies from carer to carer, and you should acquire it as you gain experience. Some of the things you’re likely to need are:

Housing for the bats – there are a range of options, including modified reptile tanks and fabric flexi-cages. Don’t forget that bats need to be housed individually unless they’re known to have come from the same roost.

Tea towels, old T-shirts or other soft cloths – as many as possible, for handling bats and giving them places to hide.

Gloves – essential when handling bats.

Food and water dishes – plastic bottle lids and furniture casters work brilliantly!

Small pipettes or syringes for giving water, medication or formula.

Live mealworms – the main food for bats in care. You can buy them from a supplier or raise them yourself. People have occasionally been known to develop mealworm allergies. Information on limiting your exposure, and what to do if you develop an allergy, can be found here.

Tweezers or forceps for feeding bats.

Heat mats.

A digital scale that can weigh small amounts.

A space for bats to practice flying. Some volunteers have a dedicated flight cage or share one with other bat carers in their area, while others adapt a room in their home for flight practice.

Please speak to your trainer for more specific recommendations.

Is any funding available?

Unfortunately, BCT does not have the resources to provide funding to bat care volunteers. Some bat groups may have limited funding available; please approach your local bat group directly to see whether this is the case.

Training

How can I find training?

Before getting in touch with us, we’d encourage you to take advantage of any workshops or other training opportunities offered by your local bat group. You may be able to find a trainer via the bat group who is willing to work with you one on one until you are experienced enough to look after bats on your own. In that case, there’s no need to register with the Bat Care Network until your training is complete.

If you cannot find a trainer via your bat group, you can fill out our online form to ask for help locating one. We will do our best to find an existing Network member who can train you either in person or remotely, although we cannot guarantee this.

Am I guaranteed to progress to being a carer or ambulance driver?

No. Before registering you as a carer or ambulance driver, we will need a reference from an existing Network member confirming that you’ve been trained and that they’re happy for you to look after bats. Although we’ll do our best if asked to help you find a trainer, it’s ultimately up to you to build up a relationship with bat care contacts in your area and obtain the necessary experience.

If you’ve registered to be an ambulance driver, we will also need a carer on the Network to confirm that they’re happy for you to bring bats to them.

Rabies prevention

Do I have to get a rabies vaccination?

You don’t need a rabies vaccination to handle bats during your initial training, as long as:

  • You’re wearing appropriate gloves (see the BCT factsheet ‘Wearing gloves when handling bats’)
  • You’re closely supervised, and
  • You seek medical advice as soon as possible if you’re bitten or scratched.

However, once you’ve been trained and are handling bats regularly, you should be vaccinated. You'll need an inital course of three jabs, then a single booster one year later, and then additional boosters (or, in Scotland, titre tests) every three to five years after that. We will need to see proof of an up-to-date vaccination before registering you as a carer or ambulance driver.

You should be eligible for free vaccinations if you only handle bats on a voluntary basis. The documents you’ll need are below. We recommend showing the Free Vaccinations for Bat Workers Advice Letter to the staff at your GP’s surgery when requesting the vaccinations. Please take the Proof of Vaccination Document for your country to your appointment and have the doctor or nurse sign it.

Even after you’re fully vaccinated, it’s important always to wear gloves when handling bats, and to seek prompt medical attention if you’re bitten or scratched.

My GP is refusing to give me free rabies jabs, what should I do?

First, it’s worth double-checking that you really are eligible for free jabs. If you handle bats as part of your paid work, you are not eligible, even if you also volunteer.

If you are definitely entitled to free vaccinations, please make sure the staff at your GP’s surgery have read our advice letter, particularly the section that applies to your country. This explains why the free vaccination scheme exists and (where relevant) where it fits into the local GP contract.

Please note that a small number of GP practices in England have opted out of the Vaccinations and Immunisations Additional Service of the English GP contract, which means that they do not offer any routine vaccinations, including free rabies jabs. If your practice is one of these, you will need to pay for the jabs privately.

If you’ve tried the above steps and your GP still refuses, please contact Lisa Worledge, who is BCT's lead on rabies-related issues.

I’m already a Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor with Natural England. Why do I have to register and submit my rabies documents again to join the Care Network?

The Bat Care Network receives no funding from Natural England and is completely unconnected to the Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor scheme. The documents you submitted to become a roost visitor are held by Natural England staff and are not shared with the Bat Care Co-Ordinator at BCT.

Can I submit a titre result instead of a vaccination record?

Of course. Your titre will need to show an antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml. In Scotland, volunteers who regularly handle bats are entitled to free titre tests. If you live outside Scotland, you’ll need to pay for the test privately.

Registering on the Network

Do I have to allow members of the public to contact me?

Because BCT’s National Bat Helpline receives so many calls, our staff unfortunately don’t have time to pass on messages. We therefore ask everyone registering with the Care Network to provide a number that can be given out to members of the public who find bats. This doesn’t have to be your personal number; you can use a separate mobile purely for bat care, and switch it off when you don’t want to receive calls.

Do I have to help with every bat care call I get?

No. It’s entirely up to you whether you help with a particular call or not. National Bat Helpline staff will give bat finders the numbers of up to three local Network members, and will also explain that they should take the bat to a vet if none of the volunteers are able to help.

Why can I only choose a radius between five and 30 miles?

Experience has shown that volunteers find radiuses of more than 30 miles very hard to sustain, while volunteers covering less than five miles are unlikely ever to get a call. If you’re finding it hard to choose between two radiuses, go for the lower option – remember, you can change it at any time by contacting the Bat Care Co-Ordinator.

How will you use my data?

Details of what data we collect and how we use it can be found in our Data Handling Policy.

What should I do if I have questions not answered here?

Drop the Bat Care Co-Ordinator a line.

Ready to get started?

Click here to register as a bat carer

Click here to register as an ambulance driver

Click here to request help in finding a trainer

Next: Request to be listed on UK Bat Care Network - for carers