Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department urges residents to be aware of bats
If you’ve been outside around nightfall, you've likely seen their angular silhouettes overhead, but the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is urging residents to be on the lookout for bats indoors as well.
The health department has received an increased number of calls this summer regarding bats in homes throughout Lawrence, said Kim Ens, director of clinic services at the department.
“We’ve had three or four instances in the past month where people have found them in their home,” she said.
While residents may be having more run-ins with bats, it’s not necessarily because there are more of them. Above average rainfall the past several months is causing bats to move indoors for shelter, said Diane Johnson, executive director of Operation Wildlife. With all of the old homes in Lawrence, it’s not difficult for bats to get inside and find spaces like attics that are well-suited for colonies, Johnson said.
“Bats can get through a space less than a quarter of an inch,” she explained.
Because one of the most common ways for people in the U.S. to get rabies is through contact with a bat, the health department is urging residents to be cautious and contact the department for guidance if they see a bat (dead or alive) inside. If anyone is bitten by a bat or suspects a possible bite, capturing the bat for testing can ensure the bat is free from rabies, Ens said.
“We can’t emphasize enough the importance of capturing the bat, having the bat tested and seeking medical advice,” she said.
While only 0.5 percent of bats carry the rabies virus, the fact that the virus is fatal means that if someone has been bitten and the bat cannot be tested, the individual has to have the vaccine as a precaution, explained Johnson.
There are four main species of bats in the area — red, little brown, big brown and Hoary bats — all of which are protected species and must be captured alive, Johnson said. If you find a bat in your home, the best way to capture it is by throwing a towel over it and picking it up with leather gloves, Johnson said.
If you have a bat colony in your home, a professional wildlife service can remove it without harming it.