This photo available under a Creative Commons license shows a male silver-haired bat captured in Ozark National Scenic Riverways in 2010. Wednesday, a bat found in Douglas tested positive for rabies, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced. (Larisa Bishop Boros)

Bat found in Douglas tests positive for rabies

No report of rabies exposure to people, according to Department of Fish and Game.

A bat found in Douglas tested positive for rabies, Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced Thursday afternoon. It’s the first time a bat in the Juneau area has tested positive, according to wildlife veterinarian Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, who works for the department.

There is no report of any at-risk exposure to rabies to people, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

State wildlife biologist Roy Churchwell, based in Douglas, said in a news release the bat was found during the daytime Sunday crawling on the grass outside an apartment building in Douglas.

“Sometimes a healthy bat may become disoriented and will be seen in the daytime, but will fly off and find cover,” he said. Juneau Police Department Animal Control and Protection was notified, as was Churchwell. The person pushed the bat in an open box without touching it and left it outside overnight; it did not leave and Churchwell collected it Monday morning. It was euthanized and sent to Beckmen in Fairbanks.

Beckmen, who leads the department’s health and disease surveillance program, tested the rabies-positive bat on Wednesday. Through the program, testing is conducted on six to 10 bats each year, according to the department. In over 45 years of rabies testing, nearly 200 bats have been examined, and the bat in Douglas is just the sixth to test positive, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

All six rabid bats were found in Southeast Alaska and were either found dead or euthanized. The last bat to test positive for rabies in the state was found in 2015 about 25 miles west of Juneau at Point Couverden, according to the Department of Fish and Game. The other four cases were on Prince of Wales Island, near Ketchikan and near Wrangell.

Beckmen said if a bat is acting sick or abnormal or is out in the daytime, don’t handle it with bare hands, and contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a bat, including someone who may have been asleep in a room with a bat and potentially had contact, should contact a health care provider immediately to be evaluated. If you a bat is found in your home and no one has been in contact with it you can visit the Department of Fish and Game website to learn how to safely release it and report your observation. A list of contacts for area offices and more information on bats can be found by visiting adfg.alaska.gov.

Contact the Juneau Empire newsroom at (907)308-4895.

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