A Cautionary Tale for Fishermen

In late May 2015, an elderly gentleman out for a drive with his wife stopped to look for kingfisher on the river Wyre at Scorton. Suddenly, he spotted a bat tangled in fishing wire and hanging from a tree far out over the water. He went down to the water’s edge but the flow was fast and the bat too far out for him to reach.

Back at home, he sought help and eventually was given my phone number. Together we drove back to the location to find the poor little bat still struggling. As we stood on the bridge with our binoculars, we could see it stretch and flap its wings, trying to free itself from the shiny threads, then after a few seconds it would give up and was clearly exhausted.

Bat and fishing line

Together we went down to the river bank where, after some persuasion, I ventured gingerly into the rushing water with my bat net. I could see the bat and attached fishing line hanging from the branch of a tree high above me. Despite four extension poles on my net, when the water came up to my thighs I was still nowhere near reaching it.

We retreated and regrouped at the nearby fishery where we explained the predicament and were told, let’s ask Bob, he will know what to do. Bob soon appeared with the largest and heaviest wooden rake I have ever seen.

Now there were three of us on the river bank. Bob waded into the water and used the rake to pull down the tree branch. From somewhere on his person he then produced a knife with which he cut off the branch. Good old Eric (the finder), holding the end of the rake during this delicate operation, was very nearly catapulted into the river but luckily managed to hold on. I (ahem) skilfully caught branch, line and bat in my net as it fell.

Safely back on dry land, I retrieved a female soprano pipistrelle that, remarkably, was uninjured. She spent a couple days in care eating and resting before being released back at the bridge. A great rescue. Sorry, did someone mention risk assessment?

Gail Armstrong