In Michigan, bats are the species most at risk for rabies infection, and of all the species of animals tested each year in the State, they are the most likely to be positive. Sick bats are more likely to exhibit abnormal behavior, have an encounter with a human or another animal, and be submitted for rabies testing.
Abnormal behaviors include:
- Being active during the day
- Being found in a place where bats are not usually seen (such as inside a home)
- Inability to fly
To reduce your risk of exposure to a rabid bat:
- Avoid picking up or touching bats. If you must, do not handle them with bare hands (use gloves or plastic bags).
- Keep your pets rabies vaccinations up-to-date. A bat is often discovered when a family pet has been found playing with it. If the bat tests positive for rabies and the pet is not vaccinated, it is recommended that the pet be euthanized. Otherwise the pet must be placed under strict quarantine at an acceptable location for 6 months and observed for signs of rabies infection.
- Bat-proof your home in the fall or winter. Any opening larger than a quarter-inch by half-inch should be covered or caulked. Common bat entry points include the chimney, vents, and under siding, eaves or loose shingles.
To safely capture a bat inside your home for rabies testing: (source: CDC)
***Be careful not to damage the head. Rabies testing is done on the brain.***
What you will need:
- leather work gloves
- small box or coffee can
- piece of cardboard
Put on the leather work gloves. When the bat lands, approach it slowly. Place the box or coffee can over it. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside. Tape the cardboard to the container securely, and punch small holes in the cardboard, allowing the bat to breathe.
If the bat is dead, pick up the bat (while wearing gloves) and place it in a heavy-duty plastic bag and refrigerate it. Do not freeze it.
To submit a captured bat for rabies testing:
Only bats discovered inside of a home where a person may have been exposed (bitten/scratched) will be tested for rabies. Bats found outside of a home will not be tested.
To have a bat tested for rabies, please bring the bat to the animal shelter facility, operated by Pound Buddies Rescue, located at 1300 East Keating Avenue in Muskegon. The shelter can be reached by calling (231) 724-6500.
If you are bitten or scratched by a bat:
- Immediately wash the wound with plenty of soap and water.
- If possible, capture the bat so that it can be tested for rabies (see above).
- Report the incident to us by calling 724-1288.
- Go to your family doctor or the
nearest emergency room.
Some people are afraid to seek treatment because they have heard it involves
a series of painful shots to the stomach. This is no longer true.
- Rabies treatment (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, also called PEP) is highly effective in preventing rabies in people possibly exposed to a rabid animal, if administered before symptoms develop.
- If the bat tests negative for rabies, then PEP is not necessary.
Bats have very small teeth, and often a bat bite may not be felt. Therefore, if you are unsure about whether or not you have been exposed (for example: you had been sleeping and awoke to find a bat in your room), please call 724-1288 for assistance.
Removing bats or wildlife-proofing your home:
For assistance with removing bats or with wildlife-proofing your home, please check with area nuisance animal control businesses. A complete list of these businesses by County is available on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website.
Michigan Rabies Brochure
Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis
Animal Bite Investigation