Bechstein's bat (Myotis bechsteinii
) is a tree-dwelling species associated with old growth woodland.
The fossil record suggests that it was once the most common bat species in Britain, but forest clearance and changes in climatic conditions have resulted in major population declines across its range. It is now one of the rarest British bats.
Its core range appears to be centred on southern England from Gloucestershire to Sussex, but it has recently been found breeding as far north as Herefordshire and Worcestershire. There are also recent records from Kent in the east to Pembrokeshire in the west.
A study by the VWT has shown that this species feeds in closed canopy broadleaf woodland with a well-developed understorey often close to water bodies. During the summer females rarely travel more than a kilometre from their day roosts.
The Trust has been researching Bechstein’s bats since the 1990s, principally through a bat box scheme in a deciduous lowland woodland in Dorset. A capture, mark, recapture ringing programme was developed to establish colony size, breeding success and colony dynamics of the Bechstein’s using the bat boxes. One remarkable bat was born in July 2000 and is still being recorded today, showing that she has reached her 11th
birthday and has had no fewer than 8 babies! Radio-telemetry studies have also been conducted in order to investigate range size, foraging distance and habitat preferences of Bechstein’s bats.