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News article created on 13 March 2013

Bat man to the rescue on the Oxford Canal

A routine call out to remove a fallen tree on the Oxford Canal, became a mission of mercy for a small colony of hibernating bats. The Noctule bats had been sleeping in a hollowed out section of an 80 foot tree when it was brought down by high winds. Luckily for them our specialist tree surgeon was also a bat expert and able to rescue the sleepy creatures.

Eagle-eyed Steve Allen spotted the wing of one of these bats amidst the debris during the tree clearance and after further investigation he carefully removed the six noctule bats from the tree; wet and dirty he took them home to ensure they recovered from their shaky ordeal.

Steveholds a Bat License and is legally allowed to handle the bats. Once he had freed the creatures he set about removing the tree from the Oxford Canal.

Steve said: “It was a real treat to see the bats in the tree trunk as it’s not something you see every day. As a bat lover it was great to see these small mammals up close and personal and although they were a little sleepy I was able to make sure they weren’t injured and I’m pleased they made a full recovery from what must have been a very eventful evening for them.”

Food and shelter

Penny Foster, ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, said: “This time of year we expect bats to be hibernating and generally they don’t tend to hunt for food during the cold weather as there aren’t many bug and insects flying around for them to eat. Apart from trees, bats like to roost in cracks and small holes in bridges and tunnels so the waterways are able to provide food and shelter.

“Although these bats are probably slightly shaken from their ordeal I should imagine that their little adventure hasn’t caused them any harm and I was delighted to assist with their safe release back along the canal the following night.”

The Noctule is one of Britain’s largest species of bat and is usually the first to appear in the evening, sometimes even before sunset. Noctules are chocolate brown in colour and have broad ears and can grow up to 48mm in length. They are primarily tree dwellers and live mainly in rot holes and woodpecker holes. As natural habitats have become more fragmented over the last 60 years, canals and rivers have become increasingly precious corridors for species such as bats to move, roost and feed.