Bats in Utah
There are 18 species of bats found in Utah. The most common species that Utah residents encounter are those that use buildings to perch (roost) such as the big brown bat, the little brown bat, the hoary bat, and the free-tailed bat. Although bats are sometimes considered pests, they play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to control insect populations.
Diseases from Bats
Bats do not commonly attack or bite humans, but precautions should be taken around bats because they can transmit both rabies and histoplasmosis. In Utah, most human rabies cases result from contact with an infected bat. Although the disease is rare, it is almost always fatal. Therefore, bats should NEVER be touched by untrained individuals. Histoplasmosis is a respiratory infection caused by fungus spores in soils that contain large amounts of bird or bat feces. Histoplasmosis is common in the central and eastern United States, but is rarely found in Utah’s dry climate.
How to Tell if an Animal is Rabid
It can be difficult to tell if an animal is rabid, especially among bats, which are the most likely source of exposure in Utah. If you encounter bats in your home or stray animals in your neighborhood, call animal control to remove these animals since they may be unvaccinated or ill.
While traveling outside of the United States, avoid contact with stray animals, even if they do not seem rabid. If you are bitten by an animal while traveling, seek prompt medical care.
What to Do if There is a Bat or Another Possibly Rabid Animal in Your House
Davis County Animal Control should be notified immediately at 801-444-2200. In most cases the animal control officer will remove the animal. This is considered an emergency. After hours call 911.
- If a bat is found inside one’s house after sleeping or with any young children not under surveillance when the bat entered, it should always be treated as an exposure.
- The bat should be captured and tested for rabies.
- The bat should be stored on ice or under refrigeration, not in a freezer.
All calls concerning human illness due to possible rabies should be transferred to the Davis County Epidemiology and Communicable Disease Division’s on call telephone number, 801-525-5200.
If a person is bitten by a bat, seek medical care immediately. Wash the bite with soap and water, notify your doctor, and the Communicable Disease & Epidemiology Bureau of the Davis County Health Department. Davis County Animal Care & Control should also be contacted to capture the bat for rabies testing, if possible.
Pets and Bats
Often pets are found playing with bats and it is unknown if the bat has bitten the pet or if the pet has bit the bat. In this case, the bat should also be captured for rabies testing, if possible. Notify Davis County Animal Care & Control at 801-444-2200 (after business hours call 801-451-4150). To avoid complications, ensure your pet stays current with its rabies vaccination.
What to Do If You Believe You Were Exposed to a Rabid Animal or Bat
If you are concerned you or a family member was exposed to a potentially rabid animal, please call the Davis County Epidemiology and Communicable Disease Bureau at 801-525-5200.
Getting Rid of Bats
In Utah, it is illegal to intentionally kill bats. All species of bats are protected and some species are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. All efforts to prevent bats from roosting or colonizing on structures should happen in the fall season after bats have had their babies and begin migrating to a winter location.
The following actions may be taken to discourage bats from coming back to your home or business:
- Cool attics with fans to make it uncomfortable for bats to reside in the space.
- Keep areas well-lit.
- Seal any cracks larger than ¼” in the roof or siding of your home with caulking, hardware cloth, foam rubber, foam sealant, or similar materials.
- When you are ready to seal any openings, you must be sure all bats have left the space. Bird netting can be placed over the openings, attached on the top and the sides, with the base open. Any remaining bats will be able to drop down the netting to leave, but will not be able to re-enter. Leave the netting in place for four to five days and then seal the openings.
- Prepare an alternate roost site. You can provide the bats an alternative place to go by building a bat box and attaching it to a tree or structure 12-15 feet off the ground and out of direct sunlight.
Health Department Assistance With Bats
In most cases, Davis County Health Department only gets involved with bat complaints when someone has had contact with a bat, a bat is found inside their home, or they observe their pet playing with a bat. In these cases the primary concern is the possible exposure to rabies. If possible, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies. Testing of the bat for rabies is coordinated through the Davis County Animal Care & Control and the Communicable Disease and Epidemiology Bureau will follow-up in cases where treatment may be warranted.
Davis County Health Department is limited in its capacity to deal with complaints regarding bats roosting on or near a home or business. In most cases, the health department is only able to educate the complainant about the precautions they can take and possible remediation.
The only regulatory action Davis County Health Department may take on complaints regarding bat roosting or colonies is if the problem is determined by a Davis County Health Department representative as being a public health nuisance. This typically only occurs when there is an excessive amount of bat feces (guano) in a public location. In this case, Davis County Health Department may issue a Notice to the property owner with a timetable to remediate conditions that are favorable to the bats. This timeline must coincide with the natural migrations of the bats as they are still protected under Federal and State laws.