Rare bat discovered during annual survey of woodland

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WILDLIFE experts have discovered a rare species once known as the hairy-armed bat in Elkesley Wood, near Retford.

The little known Leisler’s bat is described is second in size only to the Noctule bat, with a wing span of up to 33cm.

Forestry Commission experts checking 18 boxes in the 250-acre wood were surprised to discover no fewer than 26 Leisler’s bats in just one box. Other species detected during the survey included one pipistrelle and 18 Natterers.

Forestry Commission ecologist Adrienne Bennett said: “We first found Leisler’s bat in the wood last year, but not in these numbers.

“They are very thin on the ground, so it really is great to see them doing so well here and taking advantage of our bat box scheme.”

Bats have suffered a dramatic decline over the past century and now are on the European protected species list, together with otters and the dormouse.

However, the Forestry Commission says it is working hard to create bat-friendly habitats.

The bat survey carried out at Elkesley Wood is conducted once a year and involves licensed rangers climbing ladders to check bat boxes.

Any sleepy bats are carefully lowered to the ground and sexed, before being returned to their boxes.

Ms Bennett added: “Bat boxes make up for the lack of natural holes in conifer trees and also allows us to keep tabs on their welfare. Bats are tough creatures to study, elusive and active at night.

“But the effort is well worth it as they fascinating animals in their own right and a very good indicator of the health of the local environment.”