A BAT which was found in a Salisbury clothing store is to be preserved by the Natural History Museum, after researchers labelled it “one of our rarest mammals”.

The barbastelle bat, of which there are only 5,000 in the country, was discovered at Joules, New Canal, by member of staff Naomi Young.

“I’d just brought some coats down from the stock room and it was in with them,” she told the BBC.

“It scared the living daylights out of me. I thought it was a kid’s toy, moving around.”

However, she then phoned for a vet as the bat looked in an “ill state”. Sadly it died hours later.

Nevertheless, a local bat group identified the bat as a barbastelle, which is one of the rarest species in the country.

It was then sent to the Natural History Museum, which named it Joules.

Steph West, from the museum, said the animal was a “valuable specimen” and “one of our rarest mammals”.

She added: “It’s only the 12th specimen of this species from the UK since 1879.”

“The last one we had was in 1999 so it represents a very important addition to our UK mammals collections.”

The Wildlife Trust estimates there are only about 5,000 of those bats left in the UK. The species is classified as “near threatened”.

Naomi added: “We thought it was just a normal bat.

“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.”