7th May 2021

The Bat Conservation Trust is aware that a rising trend known as ‘urban exploring’ in abandoned buildings and underground hideaways is illegally impacting on bats.

Many bats live in the sorts of places that are now attracting a surge in hobby ‘explorers’, who go into old buildings and then share videos of their explorations on social media.

Many online sites show this activity is happening in places such as mines, caves, forts, abandoned former prisons, empty industrial buildings, houses, former asylums and hospitals, underground WW2 bomb shelters, disused railway tunnels, derelict schools, church ruins, military bunkers, quarry buildings, fuel storage bunkers and even grain siloes.

This is a concern for the safety of people and bats. Roosting bats are often hidden away in such places, but their presence may not be obvious. Such places are often entered illegally and may be dangerous and unstable, and health-wise they may contain dangerous substances or other hazards.

Whilst we welcome people getting out and legally and safely exploring and finding solace in ‘wilder’ places, we obviously do not encourage law breaking, potential damage to important sites or disturbance of vulnerable wildlife. We urge people to please consider the wildlife, which deserves our respect.

BCT’s Wildlife Crime Officer, Mark Goulding, who leads our Wildlife Crime Project, said bat disturbance and activity in such sites is on the rise: “Evidence is emerging that some of these activities by a minority of individuals are unlawful. Some of these locations may be of heritage and or archaeological significance or Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is a criminal offence to damage them.

“Many of these locations have protected species of flora and fauna within them. All UK bat species and their roosts are protected by law.

“Unfortunately, there has been cause for the police to investigate individuals involved in unlawful anti-social behaviour and criminality linked to ‘urban exploring’. A police caution has already been issued for one bat related offence linked to Urban exploring.

For the health and safety of people, as well as the protection of features within these locations, BCT urges that permission is obtained from the appropriate authority or owner, and advice is sought on the site before any such activity takes place. This should also include finding out if there are bat roosts, and making sure they are not disturbed.

To find out more about the Bat Crime Investigations Project click here.