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Bat dogs on patrol in Flintshire to solve death mystery  

Credit:  The Leader, www.leaderlive.co.uk 15 November 2010 ~~

You’ve heard of Batman – now meet Batdog!

Springer spaniel Twister is helping to solve a problem that has puzzled conservationists and the wind farm industry for years.

Flintshire company Wagtail UK is pioneering a way of assessing why so many protected species of bats across the UK and Europe are dying close to turbines.

Surveys show most bats don’t die from colliding with the huge turbine blades but from the disruption they cause to air pressure.

Now Wagtail, based near Holywell, has trained dogs to find the bodies of dead bats – no easy task in difficult upland terrain where most windfarms are found.
Wagtail’s head of training, Louise Wilson, said: “Bats don’t have rigid lungs as birds do.

“They can’t cope with the sudden changes in air pressure and they literally explode their lungs.

“We need to know the scale of the problem so steps can be taken to prevent bat deaths.

“That means finding out how many bats are dying.

“That’s where the dogs come in because they can find these tiny bodies by scent where humans would just walk straight past them.”

Six-year-old Twister has been with Louise since he was found abandoned aged six months.

Louise, who lives near Chester, sees the use of dogs to survey bat and bird deaths as a growth area.

She said: “Windfarms have to run surveys to show that bats and birds aren’t being killed.

“We actually have associates who are already doing this with dogs in Portugal and we have a fully trained dog available here in the UK.

“It’s quicker, cheaper and much more efficient than using people to search for bat carcasses.”

Louise holds a licence to keep the dead bats used to train the dogs.

And anyone thinking of raiding her fridge should be warned – a freezer in her office contains a selection of the tiny bodies, in various stages of decomposition, neatly wrapped in plastic.

Source:  The Leader, www.leaderlive.co.uk 15 November 2010

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