LOCAL NEWS

Two Salt Lake County bats test positive for rabies, heath officials urge caution

Sep 1, 2023, 7:14 PM | Updated: 8:41 pm

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shows a norther...

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shows a northern long-eared bat. More than half of North America's bat species are likely to diminish significantly as climate change, disease and habitat loss take their toll, scientists warned Monday, April 17, 2023. (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)

(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — Two bats in Salt Lake County tested positive for rabies, prompting the county health department to caution people to avoid wild animals. One of the flying, insect-eating mammals was found in Draper and the other in Midvale.

Bats are common to the area, and are a protected species because they are essential to the ecosystem so officials warned people to simply stay away and cautioned people not to touch bats — or any wild animal. The CDC calls rabies a preventable disease that infects the central nervous system.

Pets are required to have a rabies vaccination.

Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat is pictured during a survey. Its ears are typically measured at about half its body length. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

“Rabies is a viral illness that is spread through the saliva or brain matter of an infected animal,” Nicholas Rupp with the Salt Lake County Health Department said Friday. “It is considered 100% fatal once symptoms appear.”

Rupp advised anyone who sees a bat on the ground, or an animal that allows humans to approach, to avoid it and to call animal control. Humans cannot get rabies seeing a rabid animal and feces, blood and urine do not transmit rabies, the health department said.

Hundreds of bats discovered and removed from Highland High

Avoiding exposure

“You should stay away from bats and other wild animals. You shouldn’t be interacting with raccoons or squirrels or bats; any mammal can carry rabies,” Rupp said.

Rabies can change an animal’s behaviors, but Rupp said it’s not possible to know which animals are carriers and which aren’t without laboratory testing, so he recommended avoiding touching any.

“Most wild animals don’t want to have anything to do with humans — bats included. Bats don’t want to be anywhere near you or on the ground when they are healthy. Let animal control know if you do see a bat on the ground so they can take care of it.”

FILE: A unique species of bat, the Hoary Bat, is pictured in a biologist’s hands during a survey. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

Bats can be found in trees, in dark spaces, hanging on the edge of buildings or even in the eves of a house. The Salt Lake Valley is home to multiple bat species and it is currently migrating season, bringing other bats through the area. All are protected in Utah because they are essential in pest control, pollination and seed dispersal.

The only danger is when they come in direct contact with a human. If they enter a person’s living space, that’s when Rupp said animal control should be called immediately. Bats roosting outside a home are behaving normally, aren’t a threat and should be left alone.

Who to call

The health department urges people to call a permitted wildlife control company for help with bats in a home’s attack but to call the health department at 385.468.4222 if it enters a living space or makes physical human contact.

“We have found two bats in the last week that have tested positive for rabies, so we know there are at least a few circulating here in our community.”

FILE

“If you touch a bat or are touched by a bat you need to be evaluated and treated before symptoms begin,” Rupp said, stressing again, that once symptoms do appear in humans, rabies is considered 100% fatal.

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Two Salt Lake County bats test positive for rabies, heath officials urge caution