Bats are an important part of our ecology. They eat thousands of insects every night – yes, they eat mosquitos! They also benefit us by eating insects that are pests to farmers.
But bats are wild animals that can carry the fatal rabies virus.
How do we live in harmony with bats?
Half of the bat species in British Columbia are considered species at risk – this means they are vulnerable or threatened. To protect bats, we need to work together. Some of the things we can do include protecting bat habitats and keeping our cats indoors. Read more about bats and how to get involved protecting bats at www.bcbats.ca.
To protect ourselves from rabies, we need to appreciate bats from afar. Less than one per cent of bats in B.C. carry the rabies virus, but if you see a bat acting strangely or sick, it is more likely to be infected (8 per cent of bats sent for rabies testing are positive). Rabies is transmitted through the saliva or spit of an infected bat. So if you see a bat that looks sick or is acting strangely, keep your distance.
What if a person is exposed to a bat?
If the bat has bitten or scratched someone, clean the wound immediately and call your local public health unit. There is a treatment that, when given as soon as possible after an exposure, can prevent the development of rabies. If you are able, safely contain the bat to prevent others from being exposed, and Public Health can arrange for the bat to be tested for rabies. It is also critical to keep your pets, such as cats and dogs, vaccinated against rabies. Read more about rabies risk to you and your pet.
If a bat is acting normally but accidentally finds its way into your house, it may just be lost. Help it find its way out by opening a window or exterior door, turning off ceiling fans, turning on the lights, and closing doors to other rooms. Wait quietly and patiently in another room for the bat to find its way out.
You can prevent bats from entering your home by keeping doors and windows closed, and making sure window screens don’t have any holes. If the bat is acting sick or behaving abnormally, or seems unable to escape on its own, it can be safely captured. You can call pest control or wildlife rehabilitation specialist, or read more about safely removing a bat.
If you find a dead bat, do not touch it! Call the BC Community Bat Program at 1-855-9BC-BATS (1-855-922-2287) to ask if they will collect it for wildlife health surveillance purposes. They collect dead bats for B.C.’s bat health surveillance program from November 1 to May 31.