Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bats in My Belfry

Bats in My Belfry

"Friday evening (September 1, 2006) just prior to midnight, a bat was observed flying around Penrose Library. Security removed the animal from the Library.

If you touched or handled the bat prior to its removal, or was exposed to bat saliva, please contact the Health Center at 5295 to make sure there are no health risks because of the contact.

The Public Health Department says there is little health risk unless you touch or handle a bat. According to the Public Health Department bats rarely carry rabies, but we need to be careful.

A word of caution: Although we believe this to be an isolated incident, this is the time of year when bats may seek shelter indoors. If you encounter a bat in a building, your office, your residence hall room, or anywhere indoors, do not touch it! Please call Security (5777) and they
will notify the proper personnel to remove it.
Thank you.
Chuck Cleveland
Dean of Students"

When I saw the subject line of the email "bats around campus" I honestly thought it was yet another message about how a student was a target of some Townie hate crime. (I imagined a bat wielding punk who thinks all Whitties are rich snobs). Instead, the email was about furry little mammals.

I thought I'd take the time to point out that although bats are associated with rabies, the risk really is minimal AND bats are extremely beneficial for keeping pesky insects like mosquitoes under control. I have bats roosting in my attic (I think) based on several observations of them flying over my house. I also have never been bitten by a bug in my backyard. You can build your own bat house to encourage them to roost near your home.

Bully for bats!

I really like bats. Did you know that vampire bats can lick and groom their roostmates for up to 8 hours a day?! They regurgitate blood preferentially to those who have recently groomed them. This tit-for-tat trade helps vampire bats who don't get the opportunity to eat. Plus, there's no arguing against a little tactile comfort. I'd love to have a cartoon about vampire bat day spas.


Alasdair said...

Vampire bats are very cool (and remind me of Dr. Acula), as are the ones flitting 'round in the evening air above our place. Myself, I rather like them!

Daphne said...

Bats are pretty neat little creatures- I had one roost in between the screen and the glass of my window once while I was still living at home. My Mom wasn't happy but I found it neat to look at it through the glass. And we saw a good bit of them swooping to catch insects when we visted Hell's Canyon and its not uncommon to see them on our farm.

However- precautions should be taken to avoid contact even if the risk is "minimal". Just this year a teenager from Texas died from rabies he contracted from a bat who bit him while he was sleeping after it came in through a bedroom window and 1,000 Girl Scouts in Virginia were potentially exposed to rabies when a camp counselor caught a bat and took it around for everyone to see. An NIH study of 4,502 Colorado bats from 1977 to 1996 found that 15% carried rabies and accounted for 98% of all animal rabies cases in the state.

But I guess avoiding contact applies to just about any strange animal that you encounter on the street. I'm not saying you should run them out of town but when bats are involved I'd definitely take a hands off approach, especially if they are in an unusual area (like the library), healthy bats usually don't get that far off track...