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Use Caution if Spotting or Handling Bats

This article was originally published on April 14, 2011 and expired on May 14, 2011. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

With the start of outdoor activities for the spring and summer, there may again be more sightings of bats in and around homes. Some species hibernate and others migrate. One concern in the past few years has been reports of rabid bats. Last year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 117 cases of rabies in bats, which was the only animal species documented and reported during the year with rabies and is the highest for bats in at least twenty years of IDPH reports.

Even though not all bats have rabies, it may be safest to assume that a bat does carry the disease, according to the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic in Urbana. The Wildlife Clinic's website indicates that "if a bat is found inside or outside the home or buildings, do not attempt to touch the bat with bare hands. Bats can carry the rabies virus in their saliva, which coats their body during grooming. If you touch the bat with your bare hands, even if you did not get bitten, notify the Public Health Department immediately. Use very thick gloves or welding gloves to protect yourself. If found inside, pin them against the wall with a box or can with a lid. Take it outside and release it, and again, do not touch it with bare hands. Nursing baby bats may be clinging to their mothers. Don't release a bat if it is sick, injured or too young to live on its own." If bats are found in areas with young children or invalid persons who are unable to explain the situation, take all precautions as if there may have been a bite since it may not be readily apparent.

This is the time of year when bats may be noticed in and around the home more commonly due to their breeding and nesting activities in late spring and early summer. Homeowners should take proper precautions if a bat is found in the house or on the ground, but should not panic. Bats may also be found more frequently during the mid-summer when young ones emerge from nesting sites and try to learn to fly and maneuver as an adult. During this process they may accidentally find themselves entering into homes or landing on the ground, since they are not able to fly well yet. Young bats are capable of flight 3 to 4 weeks after they are born.

If bitten by a bat or if material from a bat, such as saliva, gets in eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, immediately wash with hot, soapy water and call a physician. Always carefully try to capture or kill the bat without damaging its head so it can be submitted for rabies testing.

A bat flying in the house will usually circle a room several times in search of an exit. The best method for getting a single bat out of the house is to allow it to find its own way out. Shut all doors leading into other rooms to confine the bat to as small an area as possible. Open all windows and doors leading outside to give the bat a chance to escape. Remove pets from the room, leave the lights on, stand quietly watch the bat until it leaves. Often the bat will locate the open door or window, and fly out of the room. Don't chase it. These pointers can aid in eliminating single bats. In the case of groups of bats occupying structures, such as attics, professional assistance may be needed to remove them.

U. of I. websites with bat information can be found at vetmed.illinois.edu/wmc/bats.html and web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/directory_show.cfm?species=bat.

Information on bats and rabies can also be found on the Center for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies or call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 217-782-4977, the local health department or see www.idph.state.il.us/health/infect/reportdis/rabies.htm. -30-

Source: John Church, Extension Educator, Natural Resources Management, churchj@illinois.edu

Pull date: May 14, 2011

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