Jul 22, 2011

A rabid bat...

...does not a rabid colony make!

In a suburban neighborhood of Spanish-tiled houses nestled at the base of Big Mountain in Moorpark, CA, a population of small bats also calls this place home. 

They are California Myotis. About 2” inches long with light brown fur and dark-colored wings. These flighted mammals can live up tor 40 years in complex societies where they maintain extremely close bonds. In addition to being highly intelligent, bats are extremely gentle, and beneficial to humans. Small bats like these can catch and consume 600 mosquitoes (and other flying insects) in an hour.

In recent weeks, a few of these bats have been found 'grounded', and of those (grounded) bats, a number of them have tested positive for rabies.

A grounded bat testing positive for rabies, while it is not very common (typically, 95% of all grounded bats test negative for rabies) it's not unheard of, either. Possible reasons for the increased number of rabid bats, is 1) it's still ‘pupping’ season, and juvenile bats are more susceptible to the disease and 2) rabies cases typically spike during summer months, with high temperatures, and during periods of drought.

Most importantly, though, these findings do not mean that the entire colony is rabid. 

A bat pup from the colony.
Photo courtesy of Miriam Quintaro.
A rabid bat will leave its home to die alone. This is probably why there has never been an outbreak of rabies in a colony in all recorded history.

A number of homes in this particular neighborhood have bats living under the tiles. Unfortunately, the Ventura County Health Department ordered one roost destroyed - the homeowner was delivered a 24-hour notice. Facing fines or jail time the homeowner complied.

Steve Balderama, a wildlife trapper, was hired for $1,000.00. He blocked holes with foam, screened off other entrances, and set a funnel and small wire box to supposedly trap all the adult bats as they left to feed at night. 

After the contraption was installed, the owner was told it would be an additional fee to retrieve any trapped bats. Does this mean the trapper was not going to check his trap in 24-hours and remove any trapped bats? That would be a violation of his trapping permit.

Friday, WildRescue joined the efforts of local wildlife rehabilitators, inviting the help of bat expert, Amamda Lollar (Bat World Sanctuary), in helping them solve the neighborhood bat problems, safely and soundly.  

If steps are taken to evict or eradicate the bats, now, it will likely cause huge problems for people living in the vicinity by increasing the number of grounded bats. 

If the adult bats are removed, the pups in the nursery will starve. As the pups become hungry, they will crawl or try to fly from the roost. This means the neighborhood could be inundated with starving juvenile bats that children and pets might come into contact with. Those that die up under the tiles will start to rot, potentially causing an additional health hazard.

Even if the bats are humanely excluded, now, the mother bats would exhaust themselves trying to get back to their young, eventually ending up weak and grounded. Doing anything, now, is a bad idea.

According to bat experts and wildlife exclusion specialists, homeowners should wait a few more weeks until the bat pups are able to fly, then humanely evict the entire colony from their roost sites. 

It would be nice to see the bats have some where to go, perhaps bat houses mounted nearby, in the adjacent vacant land, where this beneficial population can go on providing insect control to the area without posing a nuisance or risk to nearby human residents.

WildRescue and Bat World Sanctuary will, again, try reaching out to the Ventura County Public Health and City of Moorpark on Monday with advice on safe alternatives to remedying this situation.


Read the Los Angeles County Public Health Advisory
that states that most bats do not have rabies.

UPDATE: So far, the trapper's contraption has failed - yet there are fewer bats being observed. The raucous appears to have driven many of the bats from the home. 


Anonymous said...

Argh! That's so maddening!

Shannon Ggem said...

Thank you for all your efforts to save these bats.

Cindy M. said...

How awful! Why would the local authorities want to create a roof line full of dead baby bats? Each mother only has one pup per year, and this is so sad and senseless. I can't believe they wouldn't allow them to wait just a few weeks until all the babies could fly away safely with their mothers.