A rare bat found in a shop has become the first of its kind to be added to the Natural History Museum’s collection in 20 years.
The live barbastelle bat was discovered under a clothing rail in retailers Joules in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
It was taken to a vet but died within hours and was later identified after a local bat group was contacted.
Steph West, from the museum, said the animal was a “valuable specimen” and “one of our rarest mammals”.
The unusual shop visitor, named Joules by the London museum, is thought to have been hiding in a coat sleeve before it was spotted by staff member Naomi Young crawling out from under a clothes rail last week.
“I’d just brought some coats down from the stock room and it was in with them,” she said.
“It scared the living day lights out of me. I thought it was a kid’s toy, moving around.”
Ms Young said the bat looked in an “ill state”, so shop staff decided to contact a vet.
“We thought it was just a normal bat,” she said.
“We didn’t realise it was super rare until we had a call from a bat group saying it had been sent to the Natural History Museum.”
The Wildlife Trust estimates there are only about 5,000 barbastelle bats left in the UK and the species is classified as “near threatened”.
They live a variety of habitats and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.
The species’ seven known breeding sites are designated as a Special Areas of Conservation.
Ms West said: “It’s only the 12th specimen of this species from the UK since our first specimen in 1879.
“The last one we had was in 1999 so it represents a very important addition to our UK mammals collections.”