A Limerick woman has opened Ireland’s first hospital dedicated to bats after rescuing more than a hundred of the creatures so far this year.
Susan Kerwin opened the Bat Rehabilitation Ireland Centre last month in answer to the growing number who are injured each year.
Ms Kerwin’s back garden is now set to be full of fanged bats this Halloween – though none of the vampire variety.
She said it was during her fight against cervical cancer when treatment led to insomnia that her bat watching days began.
Like a human baby, we have to feed the injured pups every two hours, toilet them and make sure they are kept warm
"Watching bats at night gave me a focus when I was suffering from both lack of sleep and mental health issues due to my battle with cancer," the mother-of-two said.
"I began helping bats and it soon became apparent that I needed to set up the hospital which was opened last month due to the growing number, especially babies that are being injured by cats or displaced by weather or their roosts being destroyed.
"Like a human baby, we have to feed the injured pups every two hours, toilet them and make sure they are kept warm. Some are just a gram in weight when they come in here,” she said.
"This year alone, I've helped 130 bats and could have up to 30 here at a time,” Ms Kerwin said.
Ms Kerwin said she had now managed to rehabilitate and release almost 80 bats back into the wild.
"Bats haven't got great publicity over the years with horror films and the myths of bats getting in your hair, which isn't true,” she said.
Ms Kerwin added that bats have received a lot of bad press this year due to the belief that Covid-19 originated from the mammal.
"They play a vital role in the control of insects as a natural form of pest control and reduce the amount of pesticides farms need to use on the production of crops. Each bat can eat up to 3,000 insects each night,” she said.
"They go into a semi-hibernation in November, known as Torpor when they slow their heartbeat right down - maybe that's how Dracula was styled on their semi-vegetative state," she laughed.
"There are nine species in Ireland and all are thriving but thankfully, none are vampire bats which only live in South America."