Wednesday 6 July 2011

Out of Hours Emergency Service volunteer, Heather Mikhail shares her experiences of responding to emergency calls during the Bat Helpline’s busiest June ever!

“It’s 5:30 in the evening and my phone rings. A picture of a bat pops up. It’s one of the Bat Helpline staff letting me know that all emergency calls to the National Bat Helpline will be coming to my phone! I am ready with my folder of bat information and a map of all the bat carers in the UK. And I know I have back up from Bat Conservation Trust staff just in case I have a call that is an emergency for both the bat and the human.

Once I am connected I wait. Because I’ll have to drop whatever I am doing if the phone rings I don’t cook dinner and I even try to go to the loo as quickly as possible in case someone calls!

When the phone rings I leap into action, (occasionally literally if I have left my phone on the other side of the room) The majority of the time the callers are concerned people who have found baby bats grounded or injured near their home and are keen to help the bat. I give people advice as to how to get the bat out of any immediate danger, and then I look up their nearest volunteer bat carer and arrange an emergency call out. Once I am satisfied the caller has all the information on how to temporarily care for the bat before the bat carer arrives. I log their details onto a call sheet so that the Bat Helpline staff can follow up cases.

Although it can be distressing to receive so many calls about injured bats or baby bats whose mothers were forced to abandon them, it is very heartening to know that many people call us and care so much about British Wildlife. I’ve noticed it’s often children who find the bat and persuade their parents to phone us. This is surely positive for the future of bat conservation, not only are they showing an interest, but there is a direct emotional reward for helping the bat.

I have had some unfortunate calls too though. I once got a call from a fisherman who had caught a bat on his line as he was casting his rod. He was very upset to have hurt the bat. I also get calls from scared people who have bats flying in their homes, these are harder to deal with as the caller is not so enthused about the bat; they are often worried about the bat and can’t necessarily follow the standard advice of leaving the windows open and the lights off. However I try and reassure everyone that calls that bats are gentle creatures in need of our help and they are doing the right thing by contacting us

All in all a night on the Out of Hours Helpline is very rewarding, not just for me knowing that I have helped both bats and people, but also for the callers who make a small connection with nature. It is great to know that together with the public, Out of Hour volunteers, Bat Helpline staff and the volunteer bat carers, we can make a difference to bat conservation.” Heather Mikhail OOH volunteer

Our Out of Hours Emergency Service is under threat. This lifeline recently lost vital government funding needed to support our volunteers, with hard work and dedication from staff and volunteers like Heather we’ve managed to keep the service running… But, for how long we don’t know, that’s why we’re asking for your help.

If you would like to donate to help save this service please visit or you can now text BCTS 05 £5 to 70070

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