Old Highland bridge rebuilt as bat shelter on Road to the Isles

Stones from the disused bridge were used for the bat house. Picture: BEAR Scotland
Stones from the disused bridge were used for the bat house. Picture: BEAR Scotland
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An old stone bridge has been re-built as a unique bat shelter to clear the way for upgrading the Road to the Isles, The Scotsman has learned.

The unique bat habitat at Criche Bridge was developed as part of the ongoing bridge replacement of the old structure

The unique bat habitat at Criche Bridge was developed as part of the ongoing bridge replacement of the old structure

The new haven was created as part of the replacement of Criche Bridge near Lochailort on the A830 between Fort William and Mallaig.

The disused 19th century stone-arch bridge beside it also had to be removed because of the proximity of the new crossing, but bats were found to be using it to roost.

It is hoped they will move to their new bat house because of the familiar smell of the stone.

A bat box was built in nearby trees to provide a temporary roost while the old bridge was dismantled by hand, stone by stone.

The new 2m-high bat house includes special “bat bricks” and spaces to encourage them to roost.

Eddie Ross of Bear Scotland, which maintains the trunk road for Transport Scotland, said: “To meet the requirements of obtaining a bat licence for the project, our team developed the idea of creating this unique bat habitat after we found evidence bats were roosting in cracks in the old masonry arch bridge.

“The new road bridge will be wider than the previous structure, meaning it will impact on the old arch bridge, so the arch bridge had to be removed.

“Our engineers came up with a solution of building the new habitat using stone from the old Criche Bridge to encourage bats into the new structure due to the familiar scents of the masonry.

“We hope the bats will begin taking up residence there once works are completed.”

Scottish Natural Heritage said it was the first licence to be issued for a bat habitat built from an old bridge.

Licensing manager Ben Ross said: “Bats are a protected species, but our team works hard with developers and ecologists to come up with solutions to make sure people and wildlife can co-exist.

“The solution the ecologist came up in this case for the bridge is a wonderful example.

“Bats have suffered major declines historically, and they remain vulnerable to the loss of secure roost sites. They have a low reproductive rate and females usually only give birth to one young each year.

“For this reason, both bats and their roost sites are protected by law in Scotland.

“It’s an offence to deliberately or recklessly kill, injure or disturb a wild bat and to obstruct or disturb a bat roost, even if bats are not present.”