We continue to navigate new challenges and logistics presented by the spread of COVID-19. As we learn more about this novel virus, there is a growing concern about the zoonotic potential of the disease – the potential for humans to transfer the virus to wildlife. While there is still much uncertainty, health professionals are taking the potential for transmission seriously.
As of April 14, 2020, the rehabilitation of all bats that are not classified as state or federally threatened or endangered is suspended until further notice by order of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF). Threatened and endangered bat species include little brown bats, tri-colored bats, northern long-eared bats, Rafinesque’s big-eared bats, Indiana bats, gray bats, and Virginia big-eared bats.
If you find a bat, DGIF recommends the following:
- If you’ve been infected with COVID-19 or potentially exposed to the virus, avoid touching the bat for any reason.
- If you are not known to be infected with or exposed to COVID-19, only move bats if you can do so without coming into direct contact with the bat. As always, never touch a bat bare-handed; bats are considered high-risk rabies vector species in the state of Virginia. The Wildlife Center recommends wearing protective gloves as well as a face mask during any bat interaction.
- For very young bats, get the pup off of the ground and closer to the most likely location of a colony so the bat mother has a chance to come and collect it. Very few pups are ever found away from the maternity roost and that the roost may simply not be readily apparent. For further information on re-nesting bat pups, please visit The Save Lucy Campaign here.
- For an adult bat: if there is a visible, serious injury, contact a local veterinarian or animal control officer for assistance with euthanasia. If there are no obvious injuries, place the bat in a location away from people and potential predators and give it a chance to safely rest and recover on its own. If you think you’ve found a threatened or endangered bat contact the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at 1-855-571-9003.
Please make every attempt to leave healthy bats in the area in which they were found; the Center and other wildlife rehabilitators are unable to care for any bat that is not state or federally threatened or endangered. This is a very difficult time for wildlife professionals who are bat enthusiasts – this species already suffers from misinformation as well as other disease threats, like the spread of White-nose Syndrome. DGIF feels that this current change in rehabilitation procedures will ultimately better protect bats at a population level.
Please call the DGIF wildlife helpline with any bat-related questions at 1-855-571-9003.