Okanaganites reminded to not play with, or touch, bats

FILE. Bat. Getty Images

Bats are one of the many creatures that humans have to coexist with while living in the Okanagan and like any relationship, some parts are better than others.

While it’s hard not to appreciate that they feast on mosquitos, issues arise when humans try to get up close and personal with the winged mammals.

Interior Health sent out a Public Service Announcement on Tuesday reminding people that touching bats, either dead or alive, is probably not the best course of action.

“In B.C., between four and eight per cent of bats that come into contact with people test positive for the rabies virus,” reads the Interior Health missive.

Click to play video: 'Peachland hosts celebration for International Bat Week'
Peachland hosts celebration for International Bat Week

“In 2021, 132 people in the region were treated for potential exposure to rabies. Treatment, which involves a two-week-long period of vaccinations, should be administered as soon as possible after exposure. Without treatment, rabies is almost always fatal.”

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It is very important that people avoid handling bats with their bare hands to prevent bites or scratches, the health authority said.

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“This is particularly important for children, who tend to find bats on the ground and play with them.”


Click to play video: 'Chilliwack homeowner discovers bat colony living in attic'
Chilliwack homeowner discovers bat colony living in attic

To stay safe, the health authority recommends that people not touch bats and bat-proof their homes. If a bat finds its way inside, open the windows and close interior doors until the bat leaves and vaccinate pets against rabies.

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Those who get scratched or bitten should wash their wounds with soap and water,  and head to the hospital or doctor immediately.

While there are risks associated with touching bats there are Okanagan organizations that work to preserve the creatures’ habitat.

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Little brown bat colony discovered in Nova Scotia

The Peachland Visitor Centre, for example, is home to a bat colony that many people seek out throughout the summer.

The bat population can be seen at twilight through the hottest days of the year as they exit the roost to forage, keeping Peachland virtually mosquito-free, even along the waterfront.

The organization that advocates for the Peachland colony conducts regular bat counts as part of its educational programs, sharing the data collection with a number of scientific and conservation groups. Bats, they say, are one of the most under-studied mammals despite their importance to the ecosystem.


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