Grand Canyon National Park biologists have received confirmation that a bat collected along the Colorado River in mid-August has tested positive for rabies. Wildlife managers generally report an increase in human-bat interactions in summer months. Individuals who have had physical contact with a bat are advised to seek medical attention and be assessed for appropriate medical treatment.
Rabies is a serious disease that can kill both animals and humans. Humans can contract rabies through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, such as a bite or scratch. Possible rabies infections should be considered in animals that exhibit unusual or aggressive behavior or that are not afraid of humans. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, including bats, skunks, and foxes. Although primarily nocturnal, bats observed flying during daylight is not indicative of a rabid bat.
Rabies is preventable if medical treatment (called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP) is given following an exposure to a rabid animal but is almost always fatal if PEP is not given prior to the development of symptoms.
Take the following precautions to protect yourself from rabies:
- Never approach or touch wildlife. Please observe and appreciate wildlife from a safe distance. If you see sick or erratic behaving wildlife, notify a park employee or call the park’s 24-hour emergency communications center at 928-638-7805.
- Anyone who has had contact with a bat or other wild animal in the park should notify a park employee as soon as possible. You should consult with your doctor in the event you have contacted an animal thought to be rabid.
- In areas where pets are allowed, make sure that pets are always vaccinated and kept on a leash.
- While on a river trip take extra precaution and sleep in a tent for protection if possible.
- Bats should never be handled by untrained and unvaccinated persons or be kept as pets.
Rabid bats have been documented in 49 states. Every year, cases of rabies in animals are reported in Coconino County in Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park is working with the National Park Service Office of Public Health and the Wildlife Health Branch to protect the health and safety of visitors and wildlife in the park by testing any sick or dead wildlife.