How to get a bat licence

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In this blog post I answer some frequently asked questions, including the big one: how to get a bat licence. Whether you’re new to bats or have some experience already, I hope this post is of use.

Do I need a bat licence?

Many activities do not require a bat licence, for example bat emergence or transect surveys using bat detectors.

Some activities do require a bat licence. Bats are protected against various actions such as killing, injuring, capturing and disturbing. Licences are granted to allow certain actions e.g. capturing and disturbing. Therefore, if you plan to conduct surveys for bats you may require a licence. 

Who issues licences?

Licences are issued by a Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation.

There are separate organisations for England (Natural England), Wales (Natural Resources Wales), Scotland (NatureScot) and Northern Ireland (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).

What types of licence are there?

There are different licences for different activities. Depending on the activity you plan to undertake, you may require one or more of the following:

  • Survey licence – this licence permits actions such as capturing and disturbing bats.
  • Research licence  – this is a higher level of survey licence, permitting specialist activities such as marking and tagging bats.
  • Mitigation licence – this licence allows damage or destruction of a roost, typically for development purposes or health and safety.
  • Possession licence – this allows injured bats (those that cannot be re-released to the wild) and dead bats (or parts of bats e.g. skeletons) to be retained for education purposes.

With regards to the survey licence, in England, there is a class licensing system which has a number of different levels. The two bat licences which are the most common are:

  • Level 1 (which permits disturbance with torch).
  • Level 2 (as above, plus bat handling, hand-held nets and endoscopes).

How do I get a bat licence?

To get a bat survey licence you will need to complete a form and submit this to the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation. To support your licence, you will need to provide supporting evidence which demonstrates your competency. Generally speaking, for most applications, you will need to provide references from two people who can vouch for your skills and expertise. However, in certain circumstances you may only require one reference and another piece of supporting evidence e.g. a course completion certificate or a bat licence log book.

What are the required skills and expertise?

The Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation require confirmation that the applicant can competently undertake the activities to be licensed. This includes demonstration of practical skills (e.g. handling) and underpinning theoretical knowledge (e.g. relevant wildlife law and bat ecology).

There are a couple of guides to the scope of required skills and expertise:

Who can be a referee?

Referees must:

  • Have direct knowledge of your skills and expertise with bats.
  • Have experience of your work for at least one survey season.
  • Hold a similar licence to the one being applied for.

Generally speaking, only one of your referees can be from the company you work for.

Where do I go for training and to find referees?

There are various routes: bat group, work experience and a professional training course.

Bat group

You may be able to get training through your local bat group. Many experienced bat workers are involved with these voluntary organisations. If they have time, they may be able to provide you with training and provide a reference.

This the route I followed. I was very fortunate to find an amazing trainer who took me under their wing and started me on my journey with bats. However, not everyone is as lucky as me. With the increasing demand, bat groups often struggle with the demand for training.

One downside of this route, is that the training provided may not be relevant to those seeking a licence to use for professional work.

Work experience

If you work for an ecological consultancy firm, you may be able to gain experience shadowing more experienced colleagues. This route will allow you to gain on the job experience. As discussed above, generally speaking, only one of your referees can be from the company you work for.

This type of experience may be beneficial for those seeking a licence to use for professional work.

Professional training course

If you are not able to access training through a bat group or at work, or would prefer to attend a structured course, a professional bat licence training course may be your best option. At the time of writing there a number of providers:

Please see this post for more information about professional training courses.

How long does it take to train for a bat licence?

The minimum amount of time it takes to train for a bat licence is one year; as referees need to have observed your work for at least one season. However, most people take at least two years to train for a bat licence.

It took me two years to train for a bat licence. I was fortunate to fit in training alongside my university degree, which provided me with great freedom to volunteer and gain experience. People training alongside their day job may find it more difficult to fit everything in to such a timeframe and may benefit from training over a longer time period.

How much does a bat licence cost?

In England there is a registration fee of £80 and a renewal fee of £35 each year, if you plan to use a bat licence in a professional capacity. There is no fee if you plan to use a bat licence for voluntary purposes only.

In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland there are no fees.

How long does a bat licence last?

It depends on the type of licence and country you are in but generally 1 to 2 years. After this time it needs to be renewed. This involves submitting a report on how the licence was used.

Where can I find out more about bat licences?

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