Remember that bats are an essential part of the ecosystem and are nothing to be afraid of. Bats are not animals in need of extermination, and right now are in need of our help. Treat bats with respect and keep your distance. As like all wild animals they are not pets, and be sure to teach children to stay away.
“While bats are fascinating to watch, a few individuals can be vectors for some diseases, including rabies. And while only 0.5% of bats carry rabies, to be safe, people should avoid handling them” (NYDEC).
Bats will avoid humans, so it is when you see one awake and unconcerned with a close human presence that something may be wrong.
“Rabid bats may show abnormal behavior, such as outdoor activity during daylight; rabid bats may be grounded, paralyzed or may bite a person or animal. Not all rabid bats act abnormally, but bats that do are more
likely to have rabies.” (Bat Rabies in New York State)
Rabid bats rarely attack humans, but it is better to be safe than sorry, and humans should avoid direct contact with bats. Rabies can be fatal, so if “contact with a bat is suspected, the local health authority should be contacted to help evaluate the probability of exposure.” (Bat Rabies in New York State)
Rabies exposure means either a bite or scratch from a bat or certain circumstances of direct skin contact with a bat–there have been cases of rabies where humans were in contact with a bat but did not realize they were bitten because the bat’s small mouth didn’t cause pain or leave a mark that seemed like a bite. (Bat Rabies in New York State)
“Rabies occurs naturally in many wild animals. Actually, a higher incidence of the disease is found in skunks and foxes than in bats. In the United States the rate of occurrence is so small, barely a fraction of a percent, that there is very little danger to humans.” (Smithsonian)
What do you do if a bat is in your house?
If a bat is trapped in your house then the following steps are the best way to safely remove the bat according to the New York State Department of Health:
- Close windows, room and closet doors
- Turn on lights if the room is dark
- Wait for the bat to land.
- Wearing gloves, cover the bat with a coffee can or similar container.
- Slide a piece of cardboard under the can, trapping the bat.
- Tape the cardboard tightly to the can.
- If the bat had previously come in contact with someone or a pet, then immediately contact your local health authority to determine if rabies examination of the bat is recommended.
- If not, then take the bat outside and set it free.
The video below shows two homeowners who safely remove a bat from their house using this method.
Here is a fact sheet outlining the details about rabies if you want to learn more.