I awoke early one morning to a fluttering noise in my bedroom. Groggily, I reached for my glasses and turned on my lamp. I caught a glimpse of something peeking between my blinds. As I took a closer look, I realized it was a bat!
You would think panic would set in. You’re right -- but not because I was afraid of the bat. I was worried for the bat since both my cat and dog were staring it down. I quickly led my dog into another room, despite protests. My cat, on the other hand, would not back down. I ended up having to chase the bat out of my bedroom and into another room, using myself as a human shield to protect the bat from my cat.
Now what? The bat appeared healthy and was able to fly. Should I release it? Should I bring it to the Wildlife Center? If I bring it in, how should I secure it for transport? Do I need to worry about potential rabies exposure for not only myself but my pets as well?
According to the Virginia Department of Health, bats are considered one of the species that are at high risk for rabies. But how do I know this bat is rabid or not? Rabies manifests quite differently depending on the species affected. The most common symptoms people associate with rabies are aggression and foaming at the mouth. This is just one phase of the rabies virus. It also has a phase where the animal appears lethargic and dull. But these symptoms are general and can be seen with other diseases.
Fully awake, I started frantically looking for a box, latex gloves, gardening gloves, and a net. If I hadn’t moved into my new house only two weeks before, this search for supplies wouldn’t be a problem. Luckily, I have an amazing friend eager to help me – and the bat! Dr. Karra Pierce, our lovely veterinary intern, came over at 6:00 am before work to help me catch this bat. She came with a small butterfly net, gardening gloves, and a cardboard box.
Dr. Karra reminded me of something very important to consider for my and my pets’ health. Even though I did not feel the bat bite me or see it bite my pets, I cannot be sure that it didn’t, since we were all sleeping in the bedroom where the bat was found. Bats have very small teeth and sometimes their bites can go unnoticed, especially if you had been sleeping deeply. This situation is also most risky for pets and small children – those who can’t necessarily communicate that they’ve been bitten. If this type of exposure occurs, it is recommended that you receive post-exposure rabies vaccines. It’s always best to consult a healthcare provider about how to proceed with vaccines after any type of high-risk rabies exposure. If a pet has been exposed, always contact your veterinarian.
Even though bats are a high-risk rabies species, they should not be feared. Rather they should be appreciated for their vital contributions to our ecosystem. They are the main consumer of insects like mosquitos, and they help prevent the spread of many diseases that mosquitos carry. Imagine if there were no bats around to eat the mosquitos!
If you come across an injured bat or if a bat gets trapped in your house, it is best to use caution and be safe when dealing with them. Not only are you protecting yourself from harm, but you are also protecting that animal as well. If you are ever unsure about how to proceed contact a professional, like the Wildlife Center, that can offer advice and help you handle the situation in the safest way possible.
In this case, despite our best attempts, this little bat evaded capture! We took appropriate precautions for our health (like making sure all of our vaccinations were up to date). I’m sharing this story with you so that you can be best prepared should you wake up to a surprise bat.
Licensed Veterinary Technician