Learn what to do if a bat needs help
IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING:
COVID-19 AND BATS OF VIRGINIA
As of April 10, 2020, only threatened and endangered species of bats may be rehabilitated as per the director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF)
- This action was taken out of an abundance of caution and concern that humans with COVID-19 might pass it to our native bats and further threaten fragile bat populations.
- Currently, research is underway to determine if native bats can contract COVID-19 and if so, whether they can pass it to other bats or back to humans. We have no idea when that research will be completed.
- There are tests to determine if bats are shedding coronaviruses, but because of the dire need for human testing, we cannot currently test bats.
If you have found a bat the following is the guidance from VDGIF:
- Avoid touching any bats for any reason if you are infected with COVID-19 or have been potentially exposed to the virus.
- If you are not known to be infected with or exposed to COVID-19, only move bats if you can do so without coming into direct contact with the bat. Be aware that any contact with the saliva or brain or spinal cord tissue of the bat constitutes a potential rabies exposure and must be reported to your county health department.
- If you have found an orphan, try to get the pup off the ground and closer to the most likely location of a colony so the mother has a chance to come and collect it. (Please see our reuniting advice below–SLC)
- If you have found an adult bat, and there are no obvious injuries, place the bat in a location away from people and potential predators and give it a chance to safely rest and recover on its own.
- If there is visible, serious injury (exposed bone, one wing dragging, blood, large holes or tears in the wing–SLC) then seek euthanasia assistance from a local veterinarian or animal control.
If you have further questions regarding why Virginia instituted these restrictions, please call the VDGIF wildlife helpline at 1-855-571-9003
We will add more information as it becomes available, so please check back!
- President Leslie’s blog post regarding bat rehabilitation in Virginia
- National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association’s position statement
- Bat World Sanctuary’s position statement
- Bat Conservation Trust’s excellent page on COVID-19 and bats
- Merlin Tuttle Bat Conservation’s resource page on COVID-19 and bats
- An excellent blog post by Liliana Davalos on the origins of SARS-CoV2
- VDGIF web page about closures and restrictions (not rehabilitation related)
- Endangered and threatened bats of Virginia identification guide
- North American bats do not have or ‘carry’ COVID-19.
- ONE bat species in China was found to have a corona virus that has DNA which is ~97% similar to SARS-COV2 (the technical name of the COVID-19 virus). By comparison, human DNA is ~99% similar to that of bonobos and chimpanzees, so a small percentage of difference can mean a great deal.
- There are 1,400 species of bats globally, which fall under a large number of genera. The species of bat in which the genetically similar virus was found is is a species horseshoe bat, genus rhinolophus, which is not closely related to any North American bat species.
- Laboratory studies have shown that SARS-type coronaviruses can attach to lung tissue of native North American bats, but no studies to date have shown that the virus can cause disease or be passed to other bats and circulate in populations.
Safely reuniting bat pups
If you have found a bat pup you think needs help and that has not bitten or scratched a person or domestic animal, please read this guide to reunite it with its mother. Please be aware that our ability to rehabilitate bat pups is severely restricted because of COVID-19.
Occasionally, overheating causes a colony to jostle for the coolest spots and pups get dislodged and fall out, or a predator gets in and causes a disruption. In ‘natural’ colony spaces, pups can climb back into the colony and reunite with mothers. However, building and bat box colonies often leave no way for fallen pups to return. If you find pups down under a known colony you can return them using a pool skimmer. If pups continue to fall, pup catchers often solve the problem.
But sometimes a mother bat does not return to the colony. Pups that are thin and dehydrated or that are found wandering are probably orphans and can be rehabilitated by trained wildlife rehabilitators.
Adult bats can get in trouble and sometimes need rescue. Grounded bats are not always sick – they get hit by cars, blown into walls, dropped by predators, get too cold or wet, get torn or broken wings, get trapped in buildings, etc., etc. If no one has been bitten and if potential rabies exposure is ruled out, injured and displaced bats can also go to qualified rehabilitators.
If you find a bat in need of help in Virginia, here are your local resources:
- Fairfax County VA: Please call Animal Protection Police first at 703-691-2131 or call Kim O’Keefe at 703-627-9975
- Arlington County VA: Please call Animal Welfare League of Arlington 703-931-9241; leave a message even if they are not open as calls are routed to Animal Officers immediately. Otherwise, please call Kim O’Keefe at 703-627-9975
- We have additional help available for the Woodbridge and Stafford areas. Please leave a message with Kim O’Keefe so calls can be routed appropriately
- Rockingham or Augusta County: please call Save Lucy Headquarters at 703-973-3157
- Far northern Virginia: please call Wildlife Veterinary Care 540-664-9494 or Blue Ridge Wildlife Center 540-837-9000
- Faquier, Prince William or Culpeper County: call Nikki Stamps @ 540-272-0666
- Roanoke and surrounding areas: Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke 540-798-9836
- In Montgomery or Prince Georges counties in Maryland: call Second Chance Wildlife Center 301-926-9453
- In the Baltimore region in Maryland: please call Phoenix Wildlife Center 410-628-9736
For other regions in Virginia, please visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website for a list of permitted wildlife rehabilitators by county, or use the great new phone app or website from Animal Help Now.
Bat World Sanctuary maintains a national list of bat helpers; click here for more information.
Bat rescue is for adults only. Please find an adult to help with any bat. Please do not touch the bat!
Please do not handle bats with bare hands or allow children or pets access to bats or other wildlife.
Safely Containing a Bat
If you have found a bat that you think needs help and that has not bitten or scratched a person or domestic animal, please watch this video to learn how to safely contain it for transport to a wildlife rehabilitator.