The Erie County Health Department is warning residents about potentially rabid bats looking for shelter in their homes as temperatures drop. The DOH says that it is imperative to “keep the bat” if you find one in your home. The dip in temperatures causes bats to look for warmer places like attics to shelter in. Having a bat inside your home can increase your exposure to rabies.
Healthy bats will avoid contact with humans and other animals. Bats infected with rabies can lose their ability to fly and can be found on the ground or in water, where people or pets may encounter them. Bats with rabies are often disoriented, increasing the likelihood that they end up inside a dwelling by accident.
The rabies virus, which affects the nervous system, can be transmitted through bites, scratches, or the saliva of an infected animal. If you or a family member has been exposed to a bat, special care should be taken. The rabies virus is 100 percent fatal in humans if treatment is not provided in a timely manner.
Even though this is hibernation season for bats, they can wake up on warm winter days and may seek a safe place like your address or garage to finish hibernating.
Bat hibernation is unique because they can enter their inactive state (torpor) for highly variable lengths of time. The common little brown bat can hibernate for more than 6 months… or simply enter torpor for a few hours.
Bats can also wake up out of torpor while hibernating more frequently than some animals. Their body temperature rapidly returns to normal and they can fly and hunt for food. Bats frequently “wake up” on warm winter days.
Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said,
“Our environmental health and epidemiology staff are very experienced in dealing with potential rabies exposures. Anyone who has direct contact with a wild animal, any sort of animal bite, or who has been in a room with a bat while sleeping - call our department at (716) 961-6800. We have experience with thousands of potential rabies exposures, and can guide you through the steps to protect your health from this deadly disease.”
If you find a bat in your home or residence, here's what you should do:
- Keep the bat contained, don't allow it outside
- Call the Erie County Department of Health at (716) 961-6800 or (716) 961-7898, if it's after-hours.
If professional help is not available, capture the bat safely as described below. You will need leather or very thick work gloves (put them on), a small box or coffee can, a piece of cardboard, and tape.
-When the bat lands, move slowly toward it.
-While wearing the gloves, put the box or coffee can over the bat.
-Then, slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
-Tape the cardboard to the container, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.