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Survey finds 61 natterer's bats in just one box

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Forestry Commission Ecologist Tom Dearnley checks bat boxes in Kielder Forest

A Forestry Commission survey of bat boxes across its public estate in Kielder and Rothbury Forests has revealed that the endangered animal is doing well.

During the study rangers were stunned to discover no less than 61 Natterer's bats jammed into just one of the 232 bat boxes erected in its Northumberland woods.

The exceptional find was made in Sidwood, near Greenhaugh, north of Bellingham, which also proved the major local hotspot for Noctule bats, the biggest in the UK and the size of a clenched fist, with nine being recorded.

Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said:

“The survey results underline that our north east woods are vital havens for bats.  After many decades of decline elsewhere, it seems here at least we have significant strongholds developing thanks to habitat creation over many years.  Finding so many Natterer’s bats in one box with a capacity of no more than about 1.5 litres was pretty amazing.  I’ve certainly never seen anything like it.  Normally we would weigh and measure each bat, but with so many all we could do was keep a head count as they fluttered away.”

Because bats have declined so rapidly in the 20th century they have been put on the European Protected Species list, along with creatures such as otters,  great crested newts and the dormouse. Good bat numbers were also found in Holystone, near Rothbury. The 151 hectare (375 acres) wood, famed for its gnarled old oaks and immense wood ant nests, is also an excellent bat habitat and 57 pipistrelles were found in just 55 boxes.

Tom Dearnley added:

“This is a sample survey and we only recorded bats using the boxes and at home when we called. But it’s a benchmark and by repeating the survey we can assess how successful our conservation efforts are proving.”

Media calls to Richard Darn on 01226 246351.  Mobile 0775 367 0038.

Notes to Editor

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit