Bats are a vital part of the ecosystem. Bats consume many biting insects, and agricultural and forest pests. Bats also play a role in reducing the risks of insect-borne diseases such as West Nile virus. However, like other mammals, bats can carry diseases such as rabies. Three bats in Calumet County tested positive for rabies in the past five years, including one in 2021.
Some bites or scratches from bats may be so minor that they are unnoticed, ignored, or forgotten. Yet, these bites or scratches can still result in transmission of the rabies virus. Protect yourself and never touch a bat with your bare hands; a bat may bite if it feels threatened.
Bats sometimes find their way into living spaces. This typically happens in late summer because bats born in June learn to fly by autumn and find their way into odd situations.
What should you do if you find a bat in your home?
Determine if there was any contact with the bat.
- Did the bat make any physical contact with a person or a pet?
- Is it possible that contact went by unnoticed?
- Was the bat found in the same room with a young child? A sleeping individual? A person under the influence of drugs or alcohol? A person with sensory or mental impairment?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, call Calumet Public Health at 920-849-1432 for guidance.
If a bat in your home did not have contact with a person or a pet, the safest course of action is to do the following:
- Close the bat in a room with a window or door to the outside.
- Leave the door or window open.
- Allow the bat to leave on its own.
Capture the bat. If the bat had contact or possible contact with a person or a pet, it must be captured and sent to a lab for rabies testing. To capture the bat, follow these steps:
- Turn on lights and close the windows and doors in the room where the bat is located.
- Get heavy gloves, a coffee can, pail or similar container, tape, and a piece of cardboard.
- Wait for the bat to land.
- While wearing heavy gloves, place a container over the bat.
- Slide a piece of cardboard under the container to trap the bat.
- While firmly holding the cardboard in place against the top of the container –
- Turn it right side up.
- Tape the cardboard tightly to the container.
- Place the taped container in a cooler or refrigerated area.
- Call Calumet County Public Health at 920-849-1432 for guidance.
- Do not freeze the bat or attempt to kill it by hitting it in the head.
Test the bat. If Calumet County Public Health determines the bat had contact or possible contact with a person or a pet, the bat will be sent for rabies testing. Rabies post-exposure treatment will be recommended if:
- The bat tests positive for rabies.
- If contact with a bat occurred, or may have occurred, but the bat is not available to be tested.
- If the lab determines the specimen cannot be tested.
Seek post-exposure treatment when directed. When rabies vaccine is administered after possible exposure to a bat, it is highly effective at preventing the progression to rabies disease. However, if preventative treatment is not administered, and signs of rabies develop, the disease is typically always fatal.
Be Alert | Protect yourself, your family, and your pets from rabies. Calumet County Public Health recommends the following precautions:
- Keep bats out of living quarters –
- Make sure screens are in good repair.
- Close up any small openings that could allow bats to enter your home.
- Do not feed wildlife or stray animals – discourage them from seeking food near your home.
- Keep garbage cans tightly covered – avoid storing any food outside.
- Do not approach an unknown animal, either wild or domestic, especially if it is acting in a strange or unusual manner.
- Report any sick or strange-acting wildlife.
- Vaccinate pets and eligible livestock.
- Children should be taught to tell an adult immediately if they were bitten or scratched by any animal.
Importance of Reporting | Notify public health of all animal bites/scratches and contact with bats. Reporting animal bites/scratches, and contact with bats, allows public health experts to offer recommendations on the following:
- The need for animal quarantine.
- Animal testing.
- Rabies vaccination.
For more information, visit our website: www.co.calumet.wi.us/322/Animal-Bite-Control.