'Urban exploring' poses threat to bats, police warn
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The rising trend of 'urban explorers' touring abandoned buildings and underground hideaways is having an adverse impact on bats, a Suffolk rural police officer has warned.
Bats often find homes in places which are attractive for the 'explorers' to visit, such as mines, caves, forts, abandoned former prisons and hospitals, and empty industrial buildings.
The explorations are often posted to social media and some explorers are even charging people to tour such buildings, Sergeant Brian Calver, from Suffolk police's rural crime team, said.
In the UK, all bat species and their roosts are protected by law and it is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost.
Sgt Calver said: "One of the big increased problems we've seen is where you get these urban explorers, people going around exploring abandoned buildings.
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"Young people are drawn to that sort of stuff and it's a craze where people are putting these videos online or even charging to go on urban explorer tours.
"They are really causing problems for the bats, I understand that they are not thinking about the bats, but they are causing unnecessary disturbances.
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"If they are disturbed too much, the poor bats become so upset by it, they move on and have to find somewhere else to roost, which isn't easy for them with more and more modern buildings being sealed up."
Sgt Calver said there is a spike in bat roosts being disturbed and damaged between June and September each year which he believes is down to people beginning renovation projects during this time.
"Bats are really quite vulnerable," he said.
"They are vulnerable at any time but the young are born in June, suckling in July and then in August the young start to fly and feed before leaving the roosts and moving on so that period is really quite important.
"Bat roosts are protected at all times and that includes summer roosts, winter roosts and maternity roosts whether they are empty or not so a summer roost in the winter will be protected and vice-versa."
Sgt Calver added that anyone who encounters bats while embarking on a project would need to obtain authorisation to continue.
"The only cause of action is to apply to Natural England for a bat licence," he added.
"They could still do the work but they would have to be granted a licence and the work would have to be done under the watch of a bat-trained ecologist."
More information is available on the Bat Conservation Trust's website.