How to Catch a Bat… Sans Rabies

One reliable thing about Corvallis summers is that there will be reports of rabid bats in the area, like the one earlier last month. Of course, we should all take the necessary precautions like getting our pets vaccinated and seeking prompt medical attention for ourselves and our children. But we need to take a step back and look at how we talk about dealing with bats and rabies.

First, there’s the Benton County webpage on bats and rabies, which is a great resource if you have any questions. But, after a lengthy discussion of how it can be difficult to tell if a bat has actually bitten you, the county felt the need for this sentence: “People cannot get rabies just from seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave, or at a distance.” So if you think you might have been bitten, get it checked out. If you just saw a bat, don’t worry, you’re probably safe.

Another useful resource on Benton County’s site is how to catch a bat. One thing you’ll need is leather gloves. If you’re like me you’re thinking, “I’m supposed get the bat to fly into one of the gloves.” Reading just a bit further, we find out we should put them on. Thus gloved, take a small box or coffee can and, “when the bat lands, approach it slowly, while wearing the gloves [in case you took them off and needed a reminder], and place the box or coffee can over it.” To finish the job, slide some cardboard under the opening and tape it up for delivery to the relevant health authorities for rabies testing.  Don’t forget to make some holes so the bat can breathe.

An important point missed in this description was picked up in the website’s video. It tells us that should you have a bat in your house, seal off the room and “don’t take your eyes off of it,” which, I should remind you, will not give you rabies. Apparently, this method immobilizes the bat as the intense staring by the woman in the video leads to her impressive catching of the bat on the first try.

This sounds like a nice and humane way to catch a bat. After this month’s report of rabies, KVAL in Eugene seemed to suggest an alternative method, noting, “Any contact with a bat should be done with gloves and a shovel.” At least everyone agrees on gloves. To their credit, the GT gave a little more space for the glove and shovel method. Robert Baker of the Benton County’s Environmental Health division explained that if a bat is dead, acting rabid, or immobile for other reasons like possibly being intensely stared at, then you should use a shovel to pick it up. Lest you’re tempted by that shovel, Baker said, “An attempt should be made to safely capture the bat, without destroying the head.” That apparently happens, and then the bats can’t be tested for rabies.

For more info, check out www.co.benton.or.us/health/page/environmental-health-–-bats-and-rabies.

By Andy Hahn

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