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Bat Program

Why bats?

Because bats are awesome! But, sadly a lot of people don't know this and there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about bats which has led to them being villainised and even persecuted. Undoubtedly this has had an impact on both the funding and research allocated to bats and, on the protection, and appreciation of bats and the role they play in the ecosystem.

Bats make up about 20% of all mammal species, yet there are lots of ‘unknowns’ about bats in Western Australia. This makes it difficult for us to assess how populations are faring across the state and to identify the extent of impacts on these populations resulting from pressures such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and other disturbances.

Why should we care?

Bats are an important part of the ecosystem – globally they play a role in pollination, seed dispersal and pest control. Through studying bats we've also made medical and technological advancements, such as the creation of medicine for heart disease. Our bat appreciation flyer gives even more reasons to why bats are vital for us and our environment, and a few key actions you can take to help our bats.

What Can I do?

  • Learn more about bats and some of the issues they're faced with by watching this short documentary, 'The Truth About Bats', then spread the word and tell others why bats are important and the challenges they're faced with.

 

Roost Inspections and Counts

Roost counts involve counting bats as they emerge from a bat roost. The type of roost will dictate how the roost is monitored and whether a roost count is possible.

At this stage we’re asking anyone that is aware of a bat roost, to let us know about it. We can then scope out the roost and determine whether it’s suitable for a roost count and how else we might be able to monitor it. During the scoping out and monitoring we'll collect valuable information about bat roost preferences, which will help inform the conservation of specific bat species roosts and feed into the creation of a bat roost database. 

What is a bat roost? Put simply, a bat roost is somewhere that bats hang out! 

Bats use a range of different structures to roost in, these can include trees (forest dwelling bats particularly love old mature trees, where they can roost in hollows, under lifted bark and in cracks), crevices in walls or under tiles, in bridges, in caves or old mines and of course bat boxes and other artificial roosts.

Bats will often roost switch (switch roosts every few days) and/or move roost throughout the year depending on the season. So even if bats aren’t present in a roost now, if they were there previously, then it’s likely a bat roost and we’d still love to hear about it!

Exact roost locations will not be publicised to ensure their protection and the privacy of any landowners that are fortunate enough to host a bat roost.

If you know of a bat roost please let us know here!

 

Bat Box Monitoring

We’ve received a lot of requests and questions regarding bat boxes and bat box monitoring of existing bat boxes. We've included some information on bat boxes in the resources section of this page. We’ve also been working on a methodology that members of the community can use to monitor their bat boxes. 

Monitoring existing boxes will help us determine the occupancy of these bat boxes and also feed into our data collection on roost preferences and the creation of effective artificial roosts. One thing we know for sure is that bats are diverse, they all have different roosting requirements and one bat box won't suit all bat species. 

We're currently trialing citizen science bat box monitoring methodology with a few groups with existing bat boxes in Perth, and are taking Expressions of Interest from other groups or individuals with existing bat boxes.

Please email [email protected] if you'd like to express your interest. Please include the location, number of boxes, whether you think the boxes are being used by bats, and whether any previous monitoring has taken place.  

 

Bat Program Pilot 

We've wrapped up our bat transect pilot. We'll share more information on the results and the plan for the future surveys later this year. 

Thanks to everyone that participated and expressed an interest. We had over 100 Bat Champions register to take part in this pilot program. This exceeded our expected interest. We'll be taking this into consideration in future and will shape the program accordingly. 

Bat Detector Loan Program

Following the completing of the Bat Program Pilot we're working on developing a Bat Detector Loan Program available as a perk for our members. This will enable groups to be able to carry out their own bat walks.

We'll be sharing more information about this once it launches, which will likely be in spring 2024.

Please note that the loan program will not include specific training on using the device or the analysis of the bat calls recorded on the device, however we're happy to arrange some basic training which will help equip people on how to carry out a bat walk. At present, we're only able to offer this workshop in exchange for a donation to cover our costs.

We're currently accepting expressions of interest for these workshops now. Please send these to [email protected] with a brief description of what you'd like covered in the workshop.

This Bat Program Pilot was been made possible with thanks to our generous sponsors:

Please get in touch if you or your organisation is interested in becoming a sponsor for the CCWA Bat Program.

 

 

Other ways to get involved

There are other opportunities to get involved, including helping with educational stalls, talks, trapping and echolocation call collection. You may also like to get involved with one of the following initiatives. 

 

WA Bat Network

Kelly Sheldrick, CCWA and Jason Bird, Wirambi Landcare came up with the idea of creating a WA Bat Network - a space where individuals and groups can share information on bat conservation and research in Western Australia.
The network launched in early 2023 with the following aims:
  1. Increase awareness of bat research projects within WA to reduce the risk of duplicating efforts and encourage collaborative working.
  2. Advocate for bat conservation by increasing community awareness and engagement in bat conservation at the grassroots level.
  3. Collectively identify and report on the threatening processes that affect our precious bat species.
We've set up a facebook group for the network to bring people together to discuss where we go from here and how we can develop the network going forward. We're particularly interested in hearing from individuals that would like to join an organising group and from anyone interested in helping with a newsletter, events, fundraising, community awareness and social media. 
Please contact the WA Bat Network either through the facebook group or on [email protected] 

Spread the word

Let others know about the importance of bats, bat conservation and research in WA. When sharing anything batty on your social media platforms, please use the hashtag #WAbats to help promote bat conservation and raise awareness of the importance of bats in WA. 

Impress your mates with these cool bat facts:

  • Did you know one little microbat can eat over 1000 insects (including mozzies and other pest species) in just one night? They help keep our insect populations in check.
  • Bats are not only great indicators of ecosystem health, but they also aid soil quality by providing natural fertilisers (yes, I’m referring to bat guano or bat poo, and yes, it makes excellent fertiliser - some countries have even farmed and sold it!)
  • Just like us, bats are incredibly social animals with complex social structures and family groups. They are also incredibly long-lived for a mammal of their size with the oldest known bat (weighing only 6g) living to at least 41 years!

Donations

If you don’t have the time to give, but would still like to support the program, please consider donating to our program. You can do this through our donation page and drop a line in the comments box to say you’re inspired to donate to the bat program/citizen science program.

We're also more than happy to arrange bat nights and talks for groups in return for a donation to support this program. Please send your requests to [email protected] and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

 

General Bat FAQ

What to do if you find an injured bat?

Please contact your local wildlife rescue and they’ll be able to put you in touch with a trained, vaccinated bat carer. Please do not attempt to pick up the bat – the bat carer will be able to ask you some questions and best advise you on whether the bat needs help and what to do next.

FYI - bats go into 'topor' (a deep sleep) during the day, which can sometimes be mistaken as the bat being injured. It's important to not disturb bats in torpor. The bat carer will be able to advise you on whether the bat is likely in topor or injured and needs some help. 

 

Help, a bat is flying around my house!

In most cases the bat is just as (if not more scared than you) and will make it’s own way out, but to help the bat do this you can close the internal doors to keep the bat contained to one room, dim the lights and then open all the external doors and windows. Please also contain any pets you have.

 

I have a bat roost in my house, should I be concerned?

No, bats that roost in houses are insectivorous (eat insects), and are not dangerous to humans or pets. In fact, they help control populations of insects. Their droppings are not known to be a source of disease, and will quickly dry with little or no odour. A small percentage of bats carry Australian Bat Lyssavirus, a rabies-related disease. It can only be transmitted via saliva from an infected bat. If you do not handle bats, you should not be at risk.

Microbats are clean and sociable animals that will not nibble or gnaw wood, wires or insulation, they also don't build nests and won't bring in nesting materials. All they are after is a place to rest. Left to their own devices, microbats can be fine house guests. 

If you have a bat roosting in your house you might find these resources helpful:

We don't know a lot about the roosting preferences of our WA bat species, but we do know that they're losing roosting habitat. Learning about bat roosting preferences will help us create more suitable artificial roosts for the different bat species - an important conservation effort for protecting our bat species. For this reason, we'd love to hear more about the bat roost in your house, so please drop us an email at [email protected]

 

Why do I have bats roosting in my house?

In Australia most microbat species roost in trees, while others roost in caves. Suitable tree roosts are often found only in large old trees, as the cracks and hollows that microbats use take a long time to form. These tree roosts are often destroyed by people ‘over-tidying’ dead wood, removing old trees from their properties, and from land clearing for mining and development. In the face of this bat housing shortage, some microbat species will seek refuge in buildings instead.

 

Can I catch rabies from being in the same room as a bat?

Simply put, no, but let’s dive into this question a little further.

Although uncommon, Australian bats can carry Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), which is a disease related to rabies. This is why only people with rabies vaccinations, the appropriate PPE and training should handle bats.

You’ll only catch Lyssavirus if you handle an infected bat and it bites or scratches you, or and infected bat’s saliva gets in through your mouth, nose, or eyes! You won’t catch it from being in the same room as the bat – it’s not transmitted through the air. Doing a roost count or bat walk will not put you at risk of contracting Lyssavirus or put you at a greater risk of contracting any other virus.

Any bat handling undertaken during the Bat Monitoring Program will be carried out by in line with the ABS Bat Handling Guideline by trained, vaccinated individuals.

More info here can be found here Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) | Agriculture and Food

Resources

Australian Bat Society (ABS)

Resources on bat boxes, bat handling guidelines and various other bat related things across the country. They also have a handy Bat Map, so you can learn what species you might have flying around your area. A fantastic group to join!

Bat Boxes

The Bat House Builder’s Handbook, Bat Conservation International

A great resource on building and installing (microbat) bat boxes. Not an Australian specific guide, but still a really useful resource packed full of great information.

Bat Boxes, Bat Conservation Trust (BCT)

The Bat Conservation Trust have lots of information and considerations to take when putting up bat boxes and different bat box designs. 

Australian research on bat boxes

Melbourne's bat box monitoring program has produced lots of interesting research on the use of bat boxes in Australia. Some of the bat species found in Melbourne are the same as in Perth and the southwest, so a lot of this information is likely relevant for our bat species too.