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

READ MORE: Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as bat rabies victim

According to the Ministry of Health, the man came into contact with the bat in mid-May and developed symptoms six weeks later, sending him to hospital. 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.

The man has been identified by family as 21-year-old taekwondo instructor Nick Major, of Parksville, B.C.

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 quiet 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 Cujo, 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

Talia McKay of Williams Lake is a burn survivor who remains grateful for the support she received from the Burn Fund (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
’You have to allow yourself the grace to heal’: B.C. burn survivor reflects on her recovery

Learning how to stand straight and walk again was a feat said Williams Lake resident Talia McKay

As a former reporter and editor at the Tribune, Diana French carries on sharing her ideas through her weekly column. (Photo submitted)
FRENCH CONNECTION: Worth taking another look at hemp for paper production

Ninety years after being deemed illegal, few are afraid of marijauna

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Milking cows and strangers on the premises

Cows in a milking barn may get upset if a stranger comes

Lake City Secondary School Grade 12 students Haroop Sandhu, from left, Amrit Binning and Cleary Manning are members of the school’s horticulture club. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
LCSS horticulture club a growing success

Aspiring gardeners at a Williams Lake secondary school are earning scholarship dollars… Continue reading

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Tribune.
FOREST INK: Plenty of changes happening in forest industry

A new process produces a biodegradable plastic-like product from wood waste powder

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

Most Read