A bat spotted in B.C. by the BC Community Bat Project (BC Community Bat Project/Facebook)

A bat spotted in B.C. by the BC Community Bat Project (BC Community Bat Project/Facebook)

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

The death of a B.C. man after contracting rabies from a bat on Vancouver Island has sparked concern about the dangers of the cave-dwelling creatures of the night.

But one bat expert has some simple advice to stay safe around the wild animal: Leave them alone.

“As long as they aren’t where people and pets can come into contact with them, just don’t touch wildlife, let alone bats,” Mandy Kellner, provincial coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program, told Black Press Media Tuesday.

READ MORE: B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

According to the Ministry of Health, the man came into contact with the bat in mid-May and developed symptoms six weeks later. The exact details of how he got the rabies virus – whether through a bite or scratch or otherwise – has not been made clear, nor the specific location of the incident on Vancouver Island.

Rabies can be prevented if the bitten person gets a vaccination boost quickly, according to health officials, but if left untreated can affect a person’s nervous system and brain. Initial symptoms include tingling, prickling or itching around the bite area, followed by flu-like symptoms such as a fever, nausea or headaches.

Over time, the sickness worsens, and an infected person can start feeling agitated and irritable, have hallucinations or muscle spasms – and at worse seizures and paralysis.

“It is a very sad story and I feel so badly for the young man’s family,” Kellner said. “I don’t know the details on the situation that led to the interaction with the bat, but this highlights the need for people to respond correctly to encounters with all wildlife, bats included – the best approach is to always leave wild animals alone.”

A bat ‘acting weird’ could indicate it has a disease

B.C. is home to the most types of bats in Canada – or 16 of the 19 known species in the nation. Roughly 13 per cent of bats brought in for testing are found to have rabies, according to the province. Kellner estimated the rate is closer to one per cent among the entire bat population, as most of those bats brought in for testing are ones identified after acting odd.

If a bat is acting weird, such as sitting on the road or sidewalk or is out in plain sight during the daytime, Kellner said it is more likely they have a disease and caution is urged.

However, “just because there is a bat roosting on the side of your house doesn’t mean they are sick,” she said.

Mothers birth their pups during the early summer months, and often find spots for their “maternity roosts.” This means that by mid-summer those pups are grown up enough to be out on their own and are more likely to be spotted. But if they are perched on your roof, they aren’t sending a bat signal and the same don’t-touch rules apply.

“That’s raising alarm for people,” Kellner said, “but 99 per cent of those bats will go into the night if you leave them. Sometimes they stay for three or four days and then they will be gone.”

If a bat manages to get into a house or building, Bat Conservation International recommends remaining quite and patient while giving it plenty of exit options. There’s currently no animal conservation organization that specifically helps deal with removing bats.

Any direct contact with a bat must be taken seriously, Kellner said, and someone possibly exposed to rabies should visit a doctor immediately.

This includes contact between pets and bats, which can then be spread to humans. Kellner encouraged owners to ensure their pets are immunized, and vets can provide booster shots if needed.

“We’ve all seen Kujo, rabies is in pets is a very serious issue,” she said, adding that cats are major predators of bats and will need a rabies booster regularly.”

‘We sincerely hope that this tragic event does not turn public opinion’

Kellner, along with the rest of the BC Bat Action Team, has been tracking the bat population, and is currently hosting its annual bat count.

Their work became crucial after the 2016-17 season saw a higher-than-usual bat mortality rate, linked to white-nose syndrome. The group created a plan which includes 84 actions to combat the wildlife crisis, but Kellner said the disease is proving to be a serious threat to the bat population.

“We sincerely hope that this tragic event does not turn public opinion, at a time when bats are facing various conservation crises, including large-scale mortality from white-nose syndrome,” Kellner said. “Keeping bat roosts safe across B.C. is essential to ensuring bats have the habitats they will require to weather and recover from white-nose.”

All bats in the province are insectivorous, and eat large amounts of insects each night, including mosquitoes and other pests, Kellner said, which in turn helps keep forests and agriculture healthy.

“They are more valuable than we know, until they are gone,” she said.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)
Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment

Formal investigation, survey and training launched at museum

Brad Windsor has been an advocate for years to get sidewalks installed along Milburn Drive in Colwood, but to no avail. He wants city council to commit to making Milburn a priority lane for sidewalk construction in the future. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash highlights need for sidewalks in Island neighbourhood

‘The residents have gone from frustrated to angry’

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms first death from COVID-19

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read