A maternity colony of more than 50 lesser long-eared and freetail microbats gave a local family a shock recently when they were discovered during renovations roosting in the walls of their house.
One of the lesser long-eared microbats found in Dubbo.
Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Premier and Cabinet (OEH) Senior Threatened Species Officer, Marc Irvin, said a local resident came across the maternity colony of microbats while removing timber weatherboards from their house.
'Although these bats usually roost alone or in small groups of two or three individuals, the bats from one region will congregate for protection while breeding and raising their young to fledging stage. So finding a maternity colony of microbats is quite rare,' he said.
What are microbats?
Microbats (Microchiropteran bats) are small mammals weighing from a mere three grams up to 40 grams, and are specially adapted for flight with wings up to 25 cm long.
Microbats eat flying insects, with some eating up to half their body weight per night, so they are great for keeping mosquito populations down. The bats only breed once a year during spring and summer so it is important to protect maternity colonies until the bats are ready to disperse.
The young bats can usually take flight within six to eight weeks and are fully fledged at 12-14 weeks. The bats discovered in the home were adult bats and juveniles that were very close to fledging.
WIRES, OEH and landowners work together to protect microbats
When the local family found the microbats they called the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES). After realising there were more than just a couple of bats, WIRES contacted OEH for assistance and advice.
OEH Senior Threatened Species Officer, Marc Irvin, examines behind the wall.
Although the local family were eager to continue their renovations they were very understanding of the importance of the maternity colony and held off further works.
OEH monitored the maternity colony with an Anabat detector, which records bat calls and movements. This allowed monitoring of bat activity throughout the night.
After monitoring the bats for 12 days, observations and data indicated that the majority of the bats had dispersed and it was safe to continue removal of the wall panels to allow the renovation.
WIRES volunteer, Marita Basham, said it was great that WIRES, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the landowners were able to work together to protect the microbats.
Protecting our native animals
'The protection of our native wildlife is really important and there are lots of people who are experienced and trained to care for wildlife,' she said.
If someone finds a native animal trapped in their home or finds an injured animal they should contact a trained WIRES volunteer on 1300 556 686.
Only professional and experienced bat workers with vaccination against the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) should handle bats. Read more or contact NSW Health.