Two Thirds of Britain’s Bat Species can be found at Bodmin Jail.
Fittingly, for an old building steeped in history, Bodmin Jail is much loved by bats. Of the 17 resident bat species in Britain, Bodmin Jail is home to seven of these (Common Pipistrelle, Brown Long-eared, Lesser Horseshoe, Greater Horseshoe, Whiskered, Daubenton’s and Natterer’s).
An additional four species (Nathusius’ Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Barbastelle and Noctule) have been recorded foraging within the immediate environs of the jail, meaning that two thirds of Britain’s bat species occur here!
The jail is particularly important for its colony of Greater Horseshoe and Lesser Horseshoe bats, including a maternity roost of the latter species. Horseshoe bats are among the rarest of Britain’s bat species, being restricted to South-West England and Wales, and estimated to have declined by 90% during the twentieth century. All of Britain’s bat species are protected by law as a result of their historic declines and threats to their habitats.
The best way to see bats at Bodmin Jail is to keep an eye out just after sunset, when they may be seen foraging around the car park or emerging from buildings; they are also sometimes seen during night walks flying along the corridors of the jail.
If you are lucky enough to encounter a bat during your time at Bodmin Jail don’t be afraid as it won’t harm you and bats don’t get caught in people’s hair as folklore would have us believe. Bats are not blind and their navigational systems allow them to fly fast with pinpoint accuracy, to rival the skills of any RAF pilot. There are no vampire bats in Britain and all our native species feed upon insects – a single pipistrelle bat can eat more than 3000 insects in one night.
Bodmin Jail has invested heavily in the construction of an additional bat abode to help secure the future of this colony – a bespoke building, designed with the bat’s welfare in mind; to be an attractive, comfortable, and safe environment in which these fascinating little creatures can thrive.
Further information about bats can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust’s website.