Bats and Trees
All UK bat species rely on trees for part or all of their life cycle. The importance of trees to bats varies with both bat and tree species. The most important species of trees are ash, beech, oak and Scots pine.
Trees and hedgerows provide food and shelter, a place to rest and hibernate and a home to give birth and raise young. Bats also use trees, lines of trees and hedgerows to navigate the countryside at night.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) protects bats and their roosts in England, Scotland and Wales. Some parts have been amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) which applies only in England and Wales.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994, known as the Habitat Regs, implement the European Council Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora. Under the Habitat Regs, all bats are listed as 'European protected species of animals'.
Bats may also be protected by site safeguard measures, for example, by virtue of their roost site or feeding grounds being notified as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
It is an offence to;
- Intentionally capture, kill, injure or take a bat
- Possess or control a live or dead bat, any part of a bat, or anything derived from a bat
- Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place that a bat uses for shelter or protection i.e. all bat roosts whether bats are present or not (reckless applies in England and Wales only)
- Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of any bat
- Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat while it is occupying a structure or place that it uses for shelter or protection or any other purpose (reckless applies in England and Wales only)
- Sell, offer or expose for sale, or possess or transport for the purpose of sale, any live or dead bat, any part of a bat, or anything derived from a bat
- Publish, or cause to be published, any advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that they buy or sell, or intend to buy or sell, any live or dead bat, part of a bat or anything derived from a bat
- Set and use articles capable of catching, injuring or killing a bat (for example a trap or poison), or knowingly cause or permit such an action
- Make a false statement in order to obtain a licence for bat work
- Possess articles capable of being used to commit an offence, or to attempt to commit an offence
It is not an offence to:
- Take a disabled bat for the sole purpose of tending it and releasing it when no longer disabled, as long as that person can show that it was not disabled unlawfully by them
- Kill a bat, as long as that person can show that the bat was so seriously disabled, other than by their own unlawful act, that there was no reasonable chance of it recovering
- If the otherwise illegal act was the incidental result of a lawful operation and could not reasonably have been avoided
The maximum penalty that can be imposed for an offence, in respect of a single bat, is £5,000 and/or six months imprisonment in England and Wales.
Bats and the law - a quick guide published by the Bat Conservation Trust
Bats and trees - a guide to the management of trees published by the BCT