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Bats and Rabies at Schools
Information for School Administrators
Every year in Arizona, children find rabid bats on schools grounds and bring rabid bats to school for show-and-tell. Several of these incidents result in children having to be vaccinated for rabies each year, which entails a month-long series of vaccinations. Since rabies is fatal, such an exposure that goes unreported to adults could lead to the tragic loss of a child’s life.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) believes that prevention of contact between bats and children is extremely important and includes three key components:
- Educating children to not touch bats or other wildlife and to immediately report a bat found on the ground to an adult
- Informing school staff on what to do if a bat is found on the ground
- Decreasing the chance of bats being found on school grounds by:
- informing school officials on the importance of discouraging bats from roosting in or on school buildings
- implementing training for county environmental health sanitarians to inspect schools to identify the presence of roosting bats, and
- providing resources to schools for what to do if a bat colony is on school grounds
Teaching Children about Bats
Children need to be shown what a real bat looks like, since most people have only seen bats either in cartoons or flying in the air from a distance at dusk. When a bat is on the ground, it is difficult for both children and adults to recognize it as a bat, because the wings may be folded inward. Children should be taught to not touch a bat and to immediately tell an adult. Adults must learn the safe way of capturing a bat.
Please consider showing your children the ADHS videos:
Please also consider posting the ADHS children’s educational poster on rabies in your local school
Maricopa County Animal Care & Control has created several educational materials related to pet care, dog bites, and rabies, including a comic book for children on bats:
- "My Friend Toby" Bat Bites comic book (English)
- "Mi Amigo Toby" ¡Mordiciélago! (Español)
- Maricopa County Public Health Animal Bite Prevention Activity Sheet
Bat on the Ground: Now what?
If a bat is found on the ground, cover it with a small box or other solid container. Gently slip a piece of cardboard between the ground and box and slide the bat into the box. Use leather gloves to prevent accidental contact between hands and the bat. Make sure that all seams are tightly sealed, because bats can fit through small crevices. Call your local animal control agency. Assure that the bat is not within a child’s or pet’s reach.
Schools with Bat Colonies
If your school has a colony of bats roosting on school grounds, ADHS recommends calling the regional Arizona Game & Fish Department (AGFD) office to find a local AGFD Wildlife Service Licensee with expertise in bat exclusion.
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Office has created “Batty about Bats,” an educational document on the biology of bats, integrated pest management (IPM) for bats, and rabies prevention. The IPM portion of this document includes steps that schools can implement to discourage bats from roosting on the outside of buildings. However, removal and/or exclusion of bats from the interior of a building or structure should be conducted by an AGFD Wildlife Service Licensee. For more information about IPM related to bats, please view "Batty about Bats".
Bat photos courtesy DesertUSA.Com.