What to do if you find a bat in your home

Bats play an important role in our ecosystem.
However, they are also associated with diseases deadly to humans.

Bats eat insects, including some that can cause damage to farms and crops. They pollinate plants and they scatter seed. Studies of bats have contributed to medical advances, including the development of navigational aids for the blind. When people think about bats, they often imagine things that are not true. Bats are not blind – are not rodents – are not birds – and will not suck your blood.

BiBrownBat_wikimedia_Countertop_Bat

Take Caution When Bats Are Near.
Be safe – Never handle a bat!

Because bats are mammals, they can develop rabies, but most do not have the rabies disease. You can’t tell if a bat has rabies just by looking at it. Rabies can be confirmed only by having the animal tested in a laboratory.

Diseases Spread by Bats

Several highly fatal diseases have been linked to bats. Rabies is the most well-known disease associated with bats. Along with animals such as dogs, foxes, raccoons, and skunks, bats are one of the primary animals that transmit rabies. Rabies attacks the brain and spinal cord. An exposure to rabies most commonly occurs when a person is bitten by a rabid animal. It can also be transmitted when the saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with a person’s mucous membranes (such as in the mouth, eyes, or nose), or a fresh wound. When a person is exposed to rabies, timely administration of a vaccine known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can prevent infection. Once a person becomes infected and symptoms begin to occur, rabies is almost always fatal.

Safely Capture Bats

If a bat is present in your home, contact an animal control professional for assistance. It may be important to capture the bat for rabies testing, especially if a potential bite or exposure has occurred. Sometimes, professional help may be unavailable. In such cases, use precautions to capture the bat safely.

To begin, you will need:

  • leather work gloves (put them on)
  • small box or coffee can
  • piece of cardboard
  • tape

The steps you should take to capture the bat are:

  • When the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing the gloves, and place the box or coffee can over it.
  • Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
  • Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.

If no potential exposure has occurred, the bat can be safely released outside. If a bite or exposure to saliva has occurred (into a person’s mucous membranes such as in the mouth, eyes or nose, or a fresh wound), contact the health department or animal control authority to make arrangements for rabies testing.

 Treatment after a Potential Exposure

If you are bitten or saliva from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or wounds; wash the affected area thoroughly and get medical attention immediately. Bats have small teeth that may leave marks not easily seen (see picture). Although many people know if they have been bitten by a bat, there are certain circumstances when a person might not be aware or able to tell if a bite has occurred.

BATS_Bite_CDC

For example:

  • If a person awakes to find a bat in the room.
  • If you find a bat in a room with an unattended child.

If the above occurs, get immediate medical attention. In all circumstances, contact your local health department for assistance with medical advice and testing bats for rabies. When it cannot be ruled out that the bat is free from rabies and an exposure has occurred, PEP may need to be considered.

Take Steps to Keep Bats Out of Your Home

Some bats live in buildings and may continue to do so with little risk to inhabitants if they are unable to access living areas and the potential for contact with people is low. However, bats should always be prevented from entering rooms of your home. Bat proofing your home can prevent them from using it as a roosting site. For best results, contact an animal control or wildlife conservation agency and ask for assistance.

If you choose to do the bat-proofing yourself, here are some suggestions:

  • Carefully examine your home for holes that might allow bats entry into your living quarters.
  • Any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be caulked.
  • Use window screens, chimney caps, and draft-guards beneath doors to attics.
  • Fill electrical and plumbing holes with stainless steel wool or caulking.
  • Ensure all doors to the outside close tightly.

Most bats leave in the fall or winter to hibernate, so these are the best times to bat-proof your home. During summer, many young bats are unable to fly. If you exclude adult bats during this time, the young may be trapped inside and die or make their way into living quarters. If possible, avoid exclusion from May through August.

Common Entry Points

  • down chimney
  • opening around chimney
  • through vents
  • through open unscreened windows
  • under or through open doors
  • under siding
  • under eaves
  • under loose shingles

For questions about rabies testing for bats or other information, please call 616-393-5645 or email environmentalhealth@miottawa.org.

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