How do we catch bats? #WingedWednesdays

You may be wondering how the Native Bat Conservation Program (NBCP) catches the bats that we work with.

For a night out of trapping bats, there is a lot of equipment involved. Not only do we need huge extendable poles that go up eight metres, we also need the very fine mist nets, and all the bat processing equipment- such as gloves, bat bags, portable spring scales, etc. There is a lot of stuff to carry!

Because it takes a while to set up and hike in all the equipment that we need for the night, we always start well before dark.

The team will set up multiple nets a good distance away from each other. We stack three mist nets on top of each other on the eight-meter poles. These net set-ups are rigged with a pulley system for ease of use. The pulleys are so when we do catch a bat, we can quickly pull the net down to untangle the bat before raising the nets again. They take a special way to assemble as you need to make sure that the nets don’t tangle or lose tension and drop to the forest floor where they pick up a ton of debris that would then need to be patiently removed.

We always set up our nets in specific areas that we think the bats will travel through in the forest. This is important because if they aren’t positioned just right the bats could by-pass the nets entirely, or see the nets before they get caught and quickly manoeuvre to avoid them. We’ve seen this happen- the most impressive time was when the wind caught the net at just the wrong moment alerting the flying bat to its presence. We saw the bat do a 180 mid-flight to avoid the net.

When night finally arrives, we’ll have set-up a mini base camp far enough away from the nets not to be within sight of them but close enough to easily check them for bats every 15-20 minutes.

We use radios and headlamps to stay in contact with each other and carefully scan the entire net to see if anything has been caught.

When we do catch a bat, we make sure to take precautions for the bat’s safety. We always wear new gloves for each animal, and we wear masks so that we don’t possibly pass on a cold or other sickness to the bats.

Even though the bats are quite small, the bats in the nets are completely unharmed by being caught. We gently untangle them and place them in a soft fabric bag for processing to reduce their stress and to weigh them.

Even though the bats are quite small, the bats in the nets are completely unharmed by being caught. We gently untangle them and place them in a soft fabric bag for processing to reduce their stress and to weigh them.

The whole process doesn’t take very long, and the bats are released as soon as we are done recording their data. They happily jump off our hands and fly off into the night.