horseshoe bat, wildlife, Cotswolds

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Horseshoe Bat Facts | Wildlife & Flora in the Cotswolds

Only two species of horseshoe bats are found in the British Isles, the greater and lesser horseshoe bat. Both species are limited to the southwestern part of the country, and the Cotswolds is one of the best places to encounter these species. Both are named for the circular flap of skin surrounding their nostrils in the shape of a horseshoe. Both bats have buff-brown fur, with the juveniles of the species less than one-year-old being dark gray. The greater horseshoe bats are 0.4 to 1.2 ounces, with the lesser weighing in at only 0.1 to 0.3 ounces. Both species can be found in the summer at rest, roosting in barns hanging freely with their wings wrapped around them. Winter shows these species in hibernation, typically in cool, humid and undisturbed environments.

Both species are nocturnal and feed utilizing echolocation to find beetles and moths, with the lesser horseshoe bat also showing a proclivity for gnats. They display the same social behavior, with females grouping together to form maternity colonies at the end of April, with the males and juveniles located nearby but separate. Mating takes place prior to hibernation in the fall, with births beginning in June and lasting through to the end of July. The single young, which can weigh up to 33% of its mother’s body mass, grows rapidly and will be weaned at around 45 days old. At this time, the summer colonies begin to disperse as the bats aim to feed in preparation for hibernation.

The decline of these species from an estimated 300,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to a combined population of around 32,000 today is contributed to a loss of suitable roosting habitat. Today, roosting habitat is fully protected under UK law, and both species are being closely monitored to help continue this recovery of these rare native species.
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