Protected Species

Animal name: Bat

Type: Mammal

Habitat: Woodland

Diet: Insects

Lifespan: Up to 20 years in the wild

Active: Active at night but hibernate in winter

Family: Group of bats is called a colony


Where do you find bats?

Bats make up a quarter of the UK's mammal species, with 17 different types found throughout the UK and nine in Scotland.

In Scotland, there are generally fewer species the further north and west you travel. You'll find most of the species in southern Scotland.

All species in Scotland hibernate over winter so you are far less likely to see them during the colder months.

Bats are native to woodlands, but they are adept, intelligent creatures who will roost in buildings, tree holes and even underground places like tunnels and caves. They tend to return to the same roosting sites year after year.

What do they eat?

Bats typically feed on insects, which are in short supply during winter. Because of the energy they use up flying, they have big appetites!

What threats do bats face?

Bats are a protected species after a big drop in their numbers during the 1900s. A reduction in woodland has impacted available roosting sites, whilst the growing use of pesticides has made it more challenging to find food. Thankfully, the legal protections introduced have helped to stop their decline.

It is now illegal to deliberately or recklessly kill, injure, disturb, harass or capture a bat. It’s also an offence to damage or destroy a roost or obstruct a bat’s access to its roost.

What common problems/reasons lead to bats being cared by the Scottish SPCA?

The most common reason bats come into our care include:

  • Wing tears
  • Other wing injuries
  • Injured by other animals

I've come across...

An injured or grounded bat

If you come across an injured or grounded bat, please contact our helpline. In the meantime, place a small box over the bat, but do not handle it yourself. You can also soak cotton wool in sugar water and leave this in the box with the bat to keep them hydrated until one of our animal rescue officers arrives.

Bats need a heat source which can be provided by a hot water bottle covered with a towel and placed within the box or by simply placing the box near a radiator.

Bat in my house

If a bat manages to get into your house, open all windows, turn off all lights, remove any obstacles in the way, and leave the room.

The bat will usually find their own way out. If the bat still hasn't left a few hours later, call our helpline on 03000 999 999.

Bat discovered during building work or renovations

Stop all work immediately and contact Scottish Natural Heritage.

In the UK, all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, by both domestic and international legislation.

You may be committing a criminal offence if you intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost, deliberately disturb a group of bats or damage/destroy a place used by bats for breeding or resting (roosts) even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time.

Juvenile Bat

Please contact the Bat Conservation Trust for advice on what to do if you come across a juvenile bat. They can give advice on returning the bat to its roost.

If the bat cannot be returned to the roost, please call our helpline in 03000 999 999 as the bat may need to go to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre to be cared for.

How do we help bats at the National Wildlife Rescue Centre?

Bats that come in to the care of our National Wildlife Rescue centre will be assessed by our team and receive treatment based on their needs. Once the bat is fit and healthy, we’ll identify a suitable place to release it back in to the wild. 

Additional Details

All roosts and the bats themselves are protected by law.