Long-eared bats in EPS licences? Now that is a grey area!

Posted by Ben Mitchell BSc (Hons) MCIEEM on 14/12/2015

Grey long-eared bats are one of the UKs rarest bat species and their range was considered to be restricted to the south western coast of England only; however, a recent update from Natural England reveals just how far north they have colonised. Quite the opposite is true of the closely related brown long eared bat as it is one of our most common and widespread bat species in the UK.

The identification of long eared bat species from other bats is straightforward due to their conspicuous long ears that can be seen in flight. However, the differentiation between long eared bat species is considerably more complicated. Identification using bat detectors is unreliable and the only reliable method of identification is by taking biometric measurements in the hand or through the DNA analysis of droppings. Natural England have now stated that they:

“…..expect reasonable efforts to be made to determine species, such as the use of DNA analysis of droppings or positive identification by capturing and identifying in the hand.”

This has significant implications for bat licence applications in the South and South west of England but this may not be the whole story.

A paper published by Dr Orly Razgour in 2011 modelled the habitat suitability in the UK for grey log-eared bats. This paper showed that suitable habitats also extend into south Wales.

Images reproduced from grey long eared management plan– (Razgour et al 2013, University of Bristol/BCT)

Grey long-eared bats are no longer restricted to coastal areas. Records exist from further inland - a (dead) grey long-eared lactating female and juveniles were recently identified in Weston-Super-Mare.

It is clear that Natural Resources Wales will likely follow suit with this requirement if the distribution model is correct. The distribution is also likely to spread considerably further into south eastern England so keep your ears open!