The lesser horseshoe bat was originally a cave-roosting bat, although most summer maternity colonies now use buildings, particularly old large houses and farm buildings. Most still hibernate in underground sites such as caves. Females forage within 2-3 km of the maternity roost, feeding on insects taken in flight in mixed woodland, hedgerows and treelines.
In Britain, the lesser horseshoe bat is now found only in south-west England and Wales. It was formerly present in south-east England and the Midlands. Current estimates suggest a UK population of 14,000 divided equally between Wales and England. About 230 summer (or all-year) roosts are known and about 480 hibernation roosts. Of the latter, only 20% are used by more than 10 bats. The lesser horseshoe bat is widespread throughout central and southern Europe, but has undergone severe decline in the northern part of its range.
This species is included in Appendix II of the Bonn Convention (and its Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe) and Appendix II of the Bern Convention (and Recommendation 36 on the Conservation of Underground Habitats). It is also listed on Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats and Species Directive. It is protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations 1994 (Regulation 38) and Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The 1996 IUCN Red list of Threatened Animals classifies this species as Vulnerable (VU A2c).
Current factors causing loss or decline
Loss of, or damage to, summer maternity roost sites. This is mainly due to deterioration and unsympathetic renovation of old buildings and barns, although identifying small colonies can be problematic.
Loss of, or damage to, underground sites used mainly for hibernation, often through blocking of old mines or similar sites for safety purposes, and increased leisure or `casual` use.
Further loss, damage and fragmentation of woodland foraging habitat, old hedgerows and tree lines, and other appropriate habitat.
Coordinated monitoring of summer roosts in Wales and England has taken place over the last five and three years respectively. Some monitoring of hibernation sites has been carried out over the past year. It is included in the DETR sponsored National Bat Monitoring Programme which aims to establish baseline data for the species and to propose a long-term monitoring protocol.
A network using local bat group volunteers working closely with SNCO staff is established and continues to develop. These people provide advice on development proposals and issues relating to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
An autecological project (commissioned by the Vincent Wildlife Trust) on distribution, roosting and foraging habitats has recently been completed.
At least 12 sites are notified as SSSIs for this species. Four of these have also been proposed as SACs for this species. Around 70 other sites are within SSSIs.
The species is selected for proposed international collaboration on population monitoring under the European Bat Agreement.
Action plan objectives and targets
Maintain the current range.
Maintain the size of current populations.
Expand current geographical range of the population.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Pursue the principles and requirements of the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe. (ACTION: CCW, DETR, EA, NE, FA, LAs, MAFF, WOAD)
When next reviewed, consider targeting the Woodland Grant Scheme (WGS) (Project 3), Forest Design Plans, Countryside Stewardship Schemes, ESAs and other relevant agri-environment and forestry schemes to land in the vicinity of important roost sites, with the aim of enhancing and extending habitat used by bats. (ACTION: CCW, DETR, NE, FA, FE, MAFF, WOAD)
Establish mechanisms to ensure routine survey of mines or other underground sites due for closure or change of use, or otherwise considered vulnerable, with a view to protecting any bat colonies identified. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FE, JNCC)
Ensure that consideration is given to key maternity roost sites and the surrounding habitat when developing structure plans and assessing planning applications, particularly those for redundant buildings. The provision of alternative roost sites should be considered to mitigate any loss, as should the need for survey on planning applications for old buildings in current (and any expanded) range. (ACTION: CCW, NE, LAs)
Site safeguard and management
Ensure that management agreements for all SSSIs where the lesser horseshoe bat is known to occur take account of the requirements of this species. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Identify representative numbers of key maternity, hibernation and other roosts across the range of this species and ensure that they are notified to Local Authorities and fully protected from damaging developments. Ensure adequate representation in the SSSI series. (ACTION: CCW, NE, LAs)
Include the lesser horseshoe bat on the list of reasons for notification on those SSSIs which have been notified for other reasons (eg geology) but which also support important bat roosts. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Species management and protection
When appropriate, advise project officers for Countryside Stewardship, the WIG scheme and other forestry and agri-environment schemes of the location of key roost sites, their importance and appropriate habitat management for the surrounding areas. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FA, FE, MAFF, WOAD)
Establish links with organisations associated with the care and restoration of old buildings in the vicinity of lesser horseshoe bat sites, in order to encourage provision for the requirements of the species within old buildings. (ACTION: CADW, CCW, EH, NE, LAs)
Advise organisations engaged in underground research and recreation on the location and importance of lesser horseshoe bat roosts and the need to avoid causing disturbance to them. (ACTION: CCW, NE, LAs)
Advise key landowners, managers and other relevant organisations in the vicinity of important populations of this species on appropriate habitat management for the conservation of the lesser horseshoe bat. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Continue to support and expand the current network providing bat conservation advice including the use of licensed bat workers/wardens for roost visits. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Future Research and Monitoring
Maintain and enhance national monitoring, in relation to pan-European proposals under the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe. (ACTION: CCW, DETR, NE)
Undertake research to identify the habitat requirements of this species and the appropriate management of feeding areas needed to maintain populations at a favourable conservation status. The findings should be used to inform development of guidelines and policies for habitat protection, creation and management around roost sites. (ACTION: CCW, NE, FA, JNCC)
Assess the importance of mating roosts, underground sites and satellite or minor summer sites used by small numbers of bats with a view to establishing protection for key sites. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Develop and maintain a national database for bat records. (ACTION: JNCC)
Consider the recommendations of the National Bat Monitoring Programme once they are produced. (ACTION: DETR)
Communications and Publicity
Raise awareness of bat conservation issues amongst the owners of large country houses and farm buildings through relevant organisations and appropriate property and farming magazines. (ACTION: CADW, CCW, EH, NE)
Raise awareness of this bat species among land managers and Local Authorities. (ACTION: CCW, NE)
Maintain discussions on the conservation of the species on a pan-European scale through the IUCN Coordinating Panel for the Conservation of Bats in Europe and the European Bat Agreement. (ACTION: CCW, DETR, NE)
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans - Volume I: Vertebrates and vascular plants (June 1998, Tranche 2, Vol I, p43)