In previous years bat surveyors have had problems getting a bat licence to undertake roost visits and disturb or handle bats for conservation or ecological consultancy purposes. The paperwork and the training required has often proved overly complicated and can take years, which has led to frustration for those wishing to legally undertake such work. Fortunately, the process has recently been altered to ensure greater clarity between licence types and the introduction of a class system.
There used to be two main types of licence. The first was the Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor Licence for undertaking roost visits on behalf of Natural England. The second was the Science and Education licence, which is generally used by researchers and ecological consultants who need to survey for, disturb, take and/or handle bats as part of their work when not undertaking work as a Natural England volunteer. The changes to licensing now makes a clear distinction between these two types of licences, and introduces a Class system for the Science and Education licence.
Under the new rules applicants need to register once and get their licence automatically renewed each year, provided that they notify their requirement to remain registered and submit annual reports, in accordance with European reporting requirements.
Previously, there have been complaints that the licences do not clarify what they are allowed to do. This has been simplified and the details have been clarified in order to make it easier for people to know what permissions they have, when applying for a licence.
The new Science and Education Class Licences are as follows:
Level 1 - Permits surveying of bats by observation only (including the use of torches, but not endoscopes)
Level 2 - Permits surveying of bats by artificial lights (including endoscopes), hand and static hand-held nets
Level 3 - As Level 2, but includes mist nets and acoustic lures
Level 4 - As Level 2, but includes harp traps and acoustic lures
The new Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor Class licences are as follows:
Level 1 - Permits registered Volunteer Bat Roost Visitors to undertake activities for the conservation of bats using artificial light, endoscopes, hand and static hand-held nets.
Level 2 - As Level 1 but also permits the training of unlicensed Volunteer Bat Roost Visitors under their personal supervision.
It is important to remember that you need to meet specific criteria in order to get a Science and Education Class Licence. You need to submit an application so that you can prove that you are qualified to perform the research both in terms of education and skills required. Annual reports are also required as well as a recording requirement.
As with any form of licence it is vital that you check before making an application to ensure you get the one that is most appropriate for your individual purposes. Registration forms are available online.