Risks Associated With Bats
Big brown bat in flight. Photo courtesy of Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.
Photo courtesy of Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.
Bats are wild animals, and if handled or molested they will defend themselves by biting. Like other wildlife, you should not pick up a bat that is on the ground, or touch one that is roosting. Some USGS scientists regularly handle bats, but they have been trained in appropriate capture and handling techniques, and they have been vaccinated against rabies.

The primary concern when people come into contact with bats is rabies. Rabies is a virus that can be carried by any species of mammal, though raccoons, skunks, foxes, dogs, and bats are the predominant species that carry rabies in the wild.

Worldwide, dogs are the most significant carrier of rabies. More than 99% of human rabies is attributable to rabid dog bites. In North American, rabies vaccinations in dogs have greatly reduced the likelihood of acquiring rabies. In 1992, raccoons accounted for 50% of the 8,645 animals reported as rabid in the United States, skunks accounted for 27%, bats 7.5%, cats for 3.3%, and cattle for 2.1%. Rabies is found in about 0.5% of bats. Less than 40 people are known to have acquired rabies from bats in the last 40 years, less than one per . This compares with 854 deaths in 1996 from electrocution, 102 from Salmonella, 93 from dog bites, 78 lightning, 42 insect bites, 4 peanut butter allergies, 3 botulism, 1 bat.

URL: http://www.werc.usgs.gov/bats/risks.html
Last update: 18 March 2003