Preventing Rabies from Bats

Key points

  • In the U.S., bats are the most commonly reported animals to have rabies.
  • Bats with rabies are found in all U.S. states, except for Hawaii.
  • Most people in the U.S. who die of rabies were exposed to a bat with rabies.
  • Maintain a safe distance from bats to reduce the risk of infection.

Recognizing signs of a bat with rabies

Bats play a vital role in our ecosystem, and they do not all carry rabies. However, it's important to recognize possible signs of rabies in bats. Unusual behaviors that could indicate that a bat has rabies include:

  • A bat that is active during the day.
  • A bat that is found in unusual places (inside a home or on the ground).
  • A bat that is unable to fly or is easily approached.

If you see strange bat behavior, get in touch with animal control or your local public health department.

What to do if you encounter a bat

You should avoid touching bats. If you're bitten or scratched by a bat, wash the wound with soap and water and get medical help right away. If bat saliva or brain material gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound, see a healthcare professional urgently.

Bat bites can be tiny, so if you think you have been in contact with a bat, talk to a medical professional. If you find a bat in your home, contact animal control or a health professional to safely capture it for rabies testing. Do not release the bat until you talk with a public health expert.

Keeping bats out of your home

Prevent bats from getting in your home

Bats can fit through tiny openings, even as small as ¼ inch, and they often find shelter in homes. You can contact an animal control or wildlife conservation agency for assistance with "bat-proofing" your home. You can also take steps to bat-proof on your own.

  1. Check for any openings that bats could use to get inside.
  2. Caulk any openings larger than a dime.
  3. Use screens, chimney caps, and draft guards to seal attic doors.
  4. Fill electrical and plumbing holes with steel wool or caulk.
  5. Ensure all doors to the outside close tightly.

If you have bats in your home

  1. Watch where they exit at dusk.
  2. Count approximately how many there are.
  3. Loosely hang plastic sheeting or bird netting over the exit hole(s).
  4. This prevents bats that exited from returning and allows the remaining bats to exit.
  5. Once all bats have exited, seal the opening(s).

Tell neighbors and visitors you are bat-proofing because it could result in increased bat sightings. Any contact with bats should be reported to the health department.

Most bats leave in the fall or winter to migrate, so these are the best times to bat-proof your home. You should avoid bat-proofing between May and August to prevent trapping young bats. Always be mindful of local rules or laws about removing bats. Some bats are endangered and may need special care if they are found in your home.

How to safely capture a bat

  1. Find a contatiner like a box or a can large enough for the bat to fit in.
  2. Locate a piece of cardboard large enough to cover the container opening.
  3. Punch small air holes in the cardboard.
  4. Put on leather work gloves.
  5. When the bat lands, approach it slowly and put the container over it.
  6. Slide the cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
  7. Tape the coardboard to the container to secure the bat inside.
  8. Contact your local health department to have the bat tested for rabies.
gloved hands hold a small bat
Safely capturing a bat

If you cannot safely capture the bat, speak with your public health officials for further advice.