SOME naturalists call them the hairy-armed bat, while others refer to the tiny creature as the Lion’s Mane because of the golden fur which adorns their shoulders and head.
More properly they are known as the Leisler’s Bat, and in recent years they have been making a comeback in northern England, encouraged by Forestry Commission conservationists.
Yesterday, specialists from the commission nervously checked batboxes fixed to trees on the edge of a wood near Worksop to see if the rare creatures had taken up residence.
And after a few disappointing moments where boxes were found to be empty or home to the more common pipistrelle, ranger Adrienne Bennett lifted a lid to reveal one of the rare creatures.
After measuring its forearm and checking its sex Ms Bennett carefully placed the animal, which is protected by law, back into the bat box .
She said: “The Leisler’s bat has been recorded here previously, but to find one here today is fantastic because it suggests that they are living permanently in this area, where they have been extremely rare before.
“For many years the major stronghold for these bats has been Northern Ireland, and they have been difficult to find in England, so to discover that they have a strong foothold here is very exciting.”
The bats were found in Elkesley Wood, a Forestry Commission plantation on the edge of Clumber Park, on land which would once have made up the historic Sherwood Forest.
Some experts believe that the Leisler’s Bat is moving slowly northwards, with studies suggesting that as their numbers increase, the young move on to new territories.
Ms Bennett said the animals had a range of around two miles, meaning that they could move around the countryside quite easily if they needed to.
The Leisler’s bat is much larger than the pipistrelle, while other bats which are found in the wood also include the barbastelle, the natterer, the noctule and the brown long-eared bat.