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Three-year study on bats begins this week.

A study of the UK's largest rare bat gets under way this week.

It will include work on the Greater Horseshoe Bat, begins at Purbeck, Dorset, and will take place over three years looking at the roosts, flight patterns, diets, habitats and the influence of farming practices on the species and other bats in the area.

In a unique partnership, many of the landowners on Purbeck, including the National Trust, Dorset County Council, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Ministry of Defence and the RSPB as well as other conservation bodies such as English Nature and the Dorset Bat Group, have joined together to try to find out how bats use the landscape within the Purbeck area so that measures can be put in place to safeguard roosts, flight lines and feeding areas.

Financial support comes from the funding trust SITA UK, through the Landfill Tax and partners of the project who are paying for a three-year PhD student from the University of Bristol to tag the bats and use radio receivers to record their flight patterns - which can range as far as 30 miles in one night - to locate their night roosts and feeding areas.

The UK population of Greater Horseshoe bats has been estimated by one survey at 4,000 with only 200 breeding females believed to be in Dorset, the eastern edge of its range in the UK.

However, it is a time of range expansion and the Greater Horseshoe bat offers a model of how an animal on the edge of its range can move, once it has been given room to do so.

Greater Horseshoe bats can live to be 30 years old and do not start breeding until three or four.

They gather to breed in warm roof voids of old stable blocks or large houses and hibernate close to their summer roosts in cellars or underground quarries.

The bats feed entirely on insects. They navigate across large areas of countryside at night, often following hedgerows and woodland edges
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 20, 2005
Words:332
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