Species Biodiversity Action Plans (Summaries)

Species Biodiversity Action Plan - Greater mouse-eared bat

Common name: Mouse-eared bat
Scientific name: Myotis myotis


The mouse-eared bat is a relatively large species (wingspan: 365-450 mm), with grey-brown fur above, off-white fur below, and large broad ears.

 It is found in areas of open woodland, parkland and old pasture, and is often associated with marginal urban areas. Its preferred roost sites are buildings and warm areas of caves in the summer (occasionally hollow trees), and caves, mines and cellars in winter. Summer and winter roosts may also be widely separated.

Legal Protection

  • Mouse-eared bats appear in Appendix II of the Berne Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats). This requires that they be strictly protected against deliberate killing, capture, damage/destruction of breeding and nesting sites, disturbance, trading (including parts and derivatives), etc.
  • They are also appear in Appendix II of the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, under which signatories are encouraged to draw up agreements to restore/maintain species' conservation status through management and other appropriate measures.
  • Mouse-eared bats are also protected under Annexes II and IV of the European Communities Council Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora. These cover species of community interest the conservation of which requires the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs); and species that are in need of strict protection respectively. Damage or destruction of breeding sites or resting places is prohibited, and all life stages are protected against deliberate capture, killing or disturbance in the wild; and keeping, transport, sale/exchange and offering for sale/exchange of specimens.
  • Under domestic legislation, mouse-eared bats are covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Under Schedule 5 the deliberate killing, injuring, taking, possessing, disturbing and selling (including parts and derivatives) as well as damaging, destroying or obstructing any structure or place of refuge etc are prohibited. Under Schedule 6, certain methods of killing or taking animals are specifically prohibited, and even humane trapping for research requires a licence.

Current Status

The greater mouse-eared bat has been extinct in the UK since 1990. Although small populations once existed in Sussex and Dorset, it is possible that these were founded by immigrants from the continent, and both were lost (primarily due to roost destruction and collection). Nevertheless, if there are any unknown colonies, they are likely to be in these or neighbouring counties.

Internationally, it occurs throughout the majority of Europe (not the Netherlands or northern Belgium), and in the Eastern Mediterranean; but populations are in decline.

Threats and Issues

Although already extinct in the UK, the following factors are thought to have contributed to the population decline:

  • Collection and disturbance, especially in caves.
  • Poisoning by timber treatments in buildings.
  • Killing or exclusion from nursery sites, particularly in large buildings.
  • Reduced numbers of large beetles in grassland areas.
  • Agricultural pesticides that may reduce survival rates and breeding success.

Objectives (as pertinent to agriculture)

Given the current lack of mouse-eared bats to conserve, the national species action plan goes no further than stating the following broad objectives:

  • Maintaining and enhancing any extant populations discovered in the UK.
  • Ensuring maximum conservation effort should the species re-establish.

Conservation Advice

At the current time the only practical advice that can be offered regarding mouse-eared bats is:

  • that recently occupied sites should be protected in case of re-colonisation.

However, should re-establishment occur, a major conservation initiative will be launched.

References and Further Information

Betts, C.J. (1998). Checklist of Protected British Species. Christopher Betts Environmental Biology, Worcester, UK.

Stebbings, R.E. (1988). Conservation of European Bats. Christopher Helm, London.

Stebbings, R.E. and Griffith, F. (1986). Distribution and Status of Bats in Europe. Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Huntingdon, UK.

UK Steering Group. (1995). Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report, Volume 2: Action Plans. HMSO, London.

Wardhaugh, A.A. (1995). Bats of the British Isles. Shire Natural History, Princes Risborough, UK.

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