Wildlife Watch was shocked by the insensitive article that appeared in the Times Herald Record on 9/12/05. Bat Encounters Require Caution.

In the above article, the Orange County (NY) Health Commissioner encourages the killing of any bat who gets into a house. She foolishly recommends using a tennis racket to kill the bat, saying it’s a “pretty cool tool.”

The Orange County Health Commissioner, who must be bat phobic, claims that if a bat even touches you, you should kill him.

The Health Commissioner claims that bat bites are painless, and you may not realize that you’ve been bitten. She cites the only example of a death on the CDC website: A young girl died of rabies in 1995.

The child had been bitten by a bat while she was sleeping.

After her death, three months later, the bat was tested and found to have rabies.

(Above) A male red bat rests for the day in a maple tree during fall migration south from Canada. Males are more brightly colored than females.

(Below) A hoary bat pauses in a hemlock tree. It is one of America’s largest and most strikingly colored bats.

Photos and text from Centers for Disease Control website

However the Orange County Health Commissioner ignored the primary preventative which is keeping the house free of bats (or other critters) by plugging holes and using well-fitting screens.

Further, the CDC site said it’s unlikely that one wouldn’t know he or she was bitten by a bat.

If a child is in a deep sleep it’s possible, or if someone is drunk it’s possible.

In fact, the CDC website states: “When people think about bats, they often imagine things that are not true. Bats are not blind. They are neither rodents nor birds. They will not suck your blood — and most do not have rabies. Bats play key roles in ecosystems around the globe, from rain forests to deserts, especially by eating insects, including agricultural pests. The best protection we can offer these unique mammals is to learn more about their habits and recognize the value of living safely with them.”

To say that a bat should be killed if he touches someone is a dangerous exaggeration which could cause someone to be bitten in a wild chase after the bat. Bat Conservation International, a well-respected organization, clearly advises NOT to kill with a tennis racket as it may render the brain tissue unsuitable for testing.

That would cause a child to be given rabies shots unnecessarily.

There wasn’t a shred of respect for the animal in this article.

The Orange County Health Commissioner should be ashamed to put out such a grossly exaggerated scare.

What BCI says is that due to habitat loss, some species of bats roost in buildings and may end up in living quarters by accident, and are unable to find a way out.

They advise that to safely capture a bat, place a box or can over the bat where it is roosting on a ceiling or wall, then gently scoot a piece of cardboard between the box and wall so the bat is trapped. If there has been no contact with the bat, it can be released outdoors.

If the bat has been in a room with a child or drunk, the bat should go to the health department for testing. According to BCI only ½ of 1% of all bats have rabies.

I suggest that this Health Commissioner be replaced by someone more knowledgeable and humane.

Anne Muller, President

Wildlife Watch
New Paltz, NY

C.A.S.H. thanks Bob and Mary DeFilippo for bringing this to our attention.


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