Eagle County bats on the move, 1 rabid bat found in August
With winter looming, bats in Eagle County are starting to go into hibernation for the fall and winter, and while Colorado has plenty of natural places for the flying critters to call home, now’s the time of year that bats might start looking at your home.
“At this time of year, we often see a spike in our calls for bats in weird places like on sidewalks, popping into living rooms,” said Daniel Newbaum, regional bat expert with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Bats consume thousands of tons of night-flying insects annually and are beneficial to a healthy ecosystem.
Newbaum said bats showing up near humans are usually just young, naive fliers still learning how navigate, although as mammals, bats can carry the rabies virus. Rabies can infect any mammal and is transmitted through saliva. Rabies in bats is very rare, but it’s taken very seriously as it is fatal to humans.
While being in the vicinity of a bat without contact is not a risk, bat teeth are small and bites can go unnoticed. Contact with bats can happen in areas of sleeping adults, unattended children or unvaccinated pets.
Rebecca Larson, deputy director of Eagle County Public Health, says there’s about one or two rabid bats found in Eagle County each year. This year, there was one discovered in August.
To protect yourself and your pets, tips to avoid exposure to bats include:
Never touch a bat, or any other wild animal, with bare hands. Teach kids to leave animals they encounter alone.
Keep doors and windows covered with screens to keep bats out of your home.
If you have bats in your home, then try and find the source of their entry and seal it. Bats can get into small crevices.
If you are bitten by a bat or if you suspect you’ve been exposed to its saliva, then safely contain the bat in a cardboard box without touching it and contact Eagle County Animal Services at 970-328-3647 so the bat can be tested for rabies.
If there is no possibility of contact, then open a door or window and let the bat fly out.
Vaccinate your pets against rabies.
Treatment for rabies is effective, however it’s not fun.
“Four shots in two weeks is never fun,” Larson said. “They can be really expensive, too.”
Bats across the U.S. are being decimated by white-nose syndrome, starting on the East Coast in 2006 and now in states surrounding Colorado. While initially thought to end at the Rocky Mountains, it has spread to Washington state, too.
“We’re basically expecting it to move into Colorado within the next couple of winters,” Newbaum said.
With added stresses expected to be coming to the local bat population, Newbaum says it’s important to find positive, less stressful ways to interact with bats, such as caving with clean gear and evicting bats in your home humanely.
“I think the No. 1 thing is people shouldn’t touch wildlife,” Larson said. “Even if you think it’s hurt or injured, don’t touch it. Call someone who can handle it safely. The other thing is put screens on your doors and windows.”
For more information about rabies, visit http://www.cdc.gov/rabies. Contact Eagle County Animal Services at 970-328-3647.
Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.