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02 August 2013
Research published by Dr Orly Razgour of Bristol University* shows that the UK population of the grey long-eared bat Plecotus austriacus is facing further decline with the latest population estimates at as little as 1000 adult individuals. This is largely attributed to the loss of lowland unimproved grasslands (meadows) essential for their foraging and is punctuated by the loss of a number of known maternity roosts.
Only found along the south coast of England and Wales in mainland Britain, the grey long-eared bat was already considered rare in this country. The further decline noted at this northern edge of its range is reflected in studies of the population across its stronghold in mainland Europe.
Notoriously difficult to tell apart from the brown long-eared bat Plecotus auritus pictured above, we at ECOSA have for some time adopted a policy of routine DNA-analysis of droppings from all long-eared bat roosts to accurately determine species. Making this analysis a standard procedure for all bat surveyors is now a key recommendation of the conservation management plan put forward in the report. The report also recommends that the grey long-eared bat is awarded UK Priority Species status and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC's), as has been used to protect the greater horseshoe bat, be put in place around key roosts to flag up developments within 10 kilometres of a roost. In addition, Dr. Razgour and her colleagues urge more proactive efforts including the identification and monitoring of maternity roosts and hibernation sites with management of landscape for foraging both around and between them.
*Razgour O., Whitby D., Dahlberg E., Barlow K., Hanmer J., Haysom K., McFarlane H., Wicks L., Williams C., Jones G. (2013) Conserving grey long-eared bats (Plecotus austriacus) in our landscape: a conservation management plan. Available to download from the Bat Conservation Trust http://www.bats.org.uk/