Bat season is here and Austin is once again home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. And while bats contribute greatly to our ecosystem, Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department wants to remind the public how to protect themselves around these animals. Awareness is the best tool citizens have against exposure.

Read more about the Mexican free-tailed bat, also known as the Brazilian free-tailed bat.

Read more about bats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department offers the following tips:

  • Many bats enter homes, apartments and businesses through unscreened windows and opened doors—particularly when the weather is nice in the fall and spring.
  • Bats will generally leave a building on their own, given the chance.
  • If you find a bat in a room, do not try to catch it (unless testing is necessary because a person or pet has been sleeping in the room while the bat was present).
  • To encourage a bat to leave on its own, open windows, turn the lights on, and leave the room, closing the door behind you and keep children and pets out of the area.
  • Check the area every few hours to see if the bat has departed—it may take up to 18 hours for a bat to leave a resting place.
  • If you must remove a resting bat from a room because there’s no way to avoid  contact with people or pets, wear thick leather gloves and carefully place a wide-mouthed cup, jar, or coffee can over the resting bat, slip a piece of cardboard between the opening and the resting surface, then take the container outdoors to release the bat..
  • NEVER HANDLE A BAT—ALIVE OR DEAD—WITH YOUR BARE HANDS!
  • Keep people and pets away from a sick, injured or dead bat and call Animal Control at 3-1-1.

Rabies Exposure from Bats

Rabies exposure occurs only when a person is bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal, or when abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes are contaminated with the saliva, brain, or nervous system tissue of a potentially rabid animal.

It may take several weeks or longer for people to show symptoms after being infected with rabies. The early signs of rabies can be fever or headache, but this changes quickly to nervous system signs such as confusion, sleepiness, or agitation. Once someone with a rabies infection starts having these symptoms, that person usually does not survive. This is why it is critical to talk to your doctor or health care provider right away if any animal bites you, especially a wild animal.

If you or anyone you know could have been in contact with a bat, please call the Austin/Travis County HHSD’s Disease Surveillance Unit at 972-5555 or your local health care provider.