Bats in Derbyshire's Underground Sites
The Peak District is home to at least ten species of bat, half of which regularly make use of underground sites. These include caves, mines/adits, ice houses and railway tunnels at various times of the year. As bat populations have severely declined over the last century all eighteen species of bat that occur in the UK have been afforded protection by law making it an offence to damage any place in which they roost or deliberately or recklessly disturb bats.
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the cooperation between bat conservationists and members of cave and mine exploration communities within the Peak District. This has led to a better understanding of the issues on both sides and has helped to ensure that cavers and bats co-exist in underground sites quite happily.
In the past, many published caving guides have highlighted caves that have a history of use by bats.
Surveys undertaken by Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group means it is now considered that most caves and mines in the Peak District are used by bats at some point during the year either as winter hibernation sites, autumn mating sites or throughout the spring and summer as feeding or roosting sites (see the bottom of this page).
Bats are most vulnerable to disturbance whilst breeding (mid-summer) and hibernating (winter). They will return to these favoured sites year after year and tend to use less disturbed sites.
There are far more people using caves and mines for recreation in the Peak District than there are bat conservationists, so please help in increasing our knowledge of these fascinating creatures by passing your sighting onto the local bat group:
Submit Derbyshire Bat Records.
Submit Staffordshire Bat Records.
By following a few simple guidelines we can avoid disturbing bats and still go about our underground activities.
If you find bats underground:
- By all means have a brief look - it is only by doing this that we begin to appreciate what it is that we are trying to conserve, but bear in mind that your body heat could arouse the bat from its torpid state which may be harmful to the bat, so keep any observations brief and don't linger.
- Don't be tempted to touch or handle them. The law requires all handlers to possess a licence from Natural England and you could do significant harm to the bat without the proper training.
- Don't shine bright lights directly on bats or use flashguns near bats. Doing so can disturb them (a licence is required to photograph bats).
- Please submit the records to us by using the links in the text above.
Contrary to popular belief, bat conservationists have far more to gain by working with the caving community than working against it.
For more info, take a look at the Bat Conservation Trust's Bats Underground Leaflet.
For more info on White Nose Syndrome please visit the WNS pages of the Bat Conservation Trust website.
Current Knowledge and Projects
So what do we know about bats in Derbyshire Caves? A few sites have been monitored on an annual basis for the National Bat Monitoring Programme
(NBMP) for over a decade and the results from that are submitted to a national database as well as our own county records database in order to help establish population trends across the UK. Bats you might find hibernating in Derbyshire caves and mines include Daubenton's, whiskered, Brandt's, Natterer's and brown long-eared. See our galleries page
for more info on these species.
Autumn Swarming project
In 2014, the Derbyshire Underground Sites Project moved into Phase II of the project following more than a decade of research. If you are interested in finding out more about this project, please take a look at the project page