But, they’re sooo cute! Backyard wildlife really can be full of cute-looking creatures. I mean, check these charming ones out:
Here in Skagit County, we can potentially spot all of these critters in our living environment at different times. And, since all of these mammals can carry diseases, the general rule is please, DO NOT feed them and avoid direct contact with these cuties, especially if they look injured or sick.
I could end this blog here and feel pretty good about it, but I’d like to focus a little more on bats and what to do if you find one in or near your home!
If you find a live bat in your home and are sure no one in your house has had any contact with the bat:
- Don’t Panic: Stay calm and avoid direct contact with the bat. Healthy bats normally avoid contact with humans and other animals.
- Isolate the Bat: If possible, confine the bat to a single room by closing all doors and windows except for one leading outside. This will make it easier for professionals to capture or release the bat.
- Protect Yourself: Wear gloves and use a container like a plastic tub or a cardboard box to safely capture the bat if it’s not flying. Approach the bat slowly and gently place the container over it. Then, slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Secure the container with tape if necessary.
- Release the Bat: If the bat is unharmed and you are certain the bat did not have contact with any person in your household, you can release it outside during the evening. Bats are nocturnal and will be more active at night. Simply open the container outside and let the bat fly away.
- Bat-Proof Your Home: To prevent bats from entering your home, make sure your home is properly sealed. Check for any gaps or openings in walls, roofs, and windows that bats could use to enter. More information on bat-proofing your home can be found here.
If you think you’ve been exposed to a bat (had a bite, scratch or other contact with mucous membrane, wound or non-intact skin):
- Rabies Concerns: Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All warm-blooded mammals, including humans, are susceptible to rabies. If there was any chance of exposure to the bat (like if you woke up and found it in your room), it’s important to capture the bat for rabies testing if you can do so safely and without direct contact. Wear leather gloves and use a container or box to trap the bat. While only 3-10 % of bats submitted for testing are found to have the rabies virus, testing can prevent the need for post exposure prophylaxis if the bat does not have rabies. If the bat tests positive, then there is time to intervene in the disease progression and provide prophylaxis to exposed people.
- Wash the Affected Area: If you had direct contact with the bat (e.g., a bite or scratch), wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes.
- Seek Medical Attention: Contact a healthcare professional to evaluate the situation. They will determine whether you need to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for rabies. PEP usually involves a series of rabies vaccinations.
- Contact Health Authorities: Report the incident to your local health department (for Skagit County Public Health call (360) 416-1500). You will receive guidance on next steps, including whether the bat should be tested for rabies.
- Rabies Testing: If the bat is captured, the local health department will provide instructions for submitting the bat for rabies testing.
- Rabies Vaccination: Rabies is preventable through vaccination. If you have an occupation or activity that will place you at high risk of bat exposure, your healthcare provider might recommend pre-exposure rabies vaccinations to provide protection in case of future exposure.
How to protect your pets from being exposed to rabies from bats:
- Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Rabies vaccination of pets is required in Washington State. If you are uncertain of your pet’s vaccination status talk to your veterinarian and ensure you keep your pet up to date with booster doses.
- Provide supervision during early morning and evening outings. Bats are most active at dusk, night, and pre-dawn. If you’re outside with your pet during dusk or dawn, supervise them closely to prevent them from interacting with any bats they might encounter.
- Bat-proof your home. To prevent bats from entering your home and potentially interacting with your pet, make sure your home is properly sealed. Check for any gaps or openings in walls, roofs, and windows that bats could use to enter. More information on bat-proofing your home can be found here.
- Pet Restraints. If you’re in an area where bats are active, keep your pet on a leash or under close control when outdoors to minimize the chance of interactions with bats.
Remember, even though this blog has had unsavory moments, most bats are completely healthy and vital to our Pacific Northwest ecosystem. They eat insects, helping to control pests. Bat droppings (called guano) are a source of nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Bats also play a role in pollination, which aids our agricultural economy here in Skagit County.