There are at least nine species of bat found in Scotland, the most numerous and familiar of these are pipistrelles. However, over the last century bat populations have declined considerably and are consequently subject to high levels of legal protection.
All species of bat are protected by UK and European legislation. It is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take bats or deliberately damage or destroy their roosts or disturb bats. As bats tend to return to the same roosts each year, these sites are protected whether the bats are present or not.
As natural roosting sites have become scarce due to development and land use change, the number of artificial roost sites have increased, and have become very important for the conservation needs of bats.
However, these artificial roosts are under threat; demolition of old buildings, renovations, changes in use, artificial lighting and the move towards air-tight buildings, all have implications for bat populations using them.
All UK bat species are known to use buildings, but some species are more building reliant than others. A range of possible roosting opportunities exist that mimic those found in the natural environment, including crevice-like or tree cavity type spaces such as those found in both modern and traditional houses such as behind fascia and barge boarding, spaces beneath roof tiles, wall coatings, hollow mortice joints, rain gutters and chimneys.
Bats will also roost in cave-like spaces include attics and cellars that are dark, exhibiting stable temperatures and humidity. These spaces may be found in a range of buildings including barns and other farm buildings, historic buildings, castles, churches and terraced houses.
Scottish Land & Estates member the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) are one of Scotland's leading bat conservation bodies and strive to conserve bats in almost 100 of their properties.
Supporting some of Scotland's best roost sites, the trust ensures all NTS building and development work include an assessment for bats during the planning stages and, if appropriate, immediately prior to the commencement of works.
With building-work essential at many Trust properties, bat checks form part of a wider identification programme to make sure future maintenance works do not damage or disturb the dwellings.
If you think you have bats or a bat roost and want to carry out work such as re-roofing, roof repairs, alterations in the loft, wall re-pointing, remedial timber treatment or repairs to eaves or cladding or the demolition of trees that might affect the bats, it is strongly recommended you contact SNH before taking any action that may affect bats or their roosts.
For more information visit http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/species-licensing/mammal-licensing/bats-and-licensing or phone the SNH bat helpline 01463 25165.