While there’s no bat-related blockbuster in theaters this summer, the seasonal threat from the only mammal that flies is once again causing buzz and some concern around the Santa Clarita Valley.
A Public Health announcement issued ahead of an anticipated summer uptick in rabid bats being reported noted there had already been six rabid bats found and three in the Santa Clarita Valley.
By Aug. 3, about a week later, the total number found in the SCV had increased to seven. The Department of Public Health website does not indicate the specific location where each bat was found — just a brief description of the circumstances.
A website with DPH information about rabies indicates two were found in Valencia, one in Stevenson Ranch, one in Castaic and three in Santa Clarita. The map accompanying the reports appears to indicate two of the three listed under “Santa Clarita” were in Saugus and the third was in Newhall. However, health officials do not release the specific locations.
The SCV’s greenbelt and proximity to nature is the logical reason why it leads the county in rabid-bat sightings.
The 2023 data tracks with historical numbers. Last year there were 50 rabid bats reported in L.A. County, and 32 of them were reported in the SCV.
“Healthy bats are good for the environment and are protected wildlife, but rabies does circulate in local bats, with about 1 out of 1,000 being infected, and we see more cases in the summer and fall,” wrote Karen Ehnert, director of Veterinary Public Health for the L.A. County Department of Public Health. “If you find a bat in your home, or see a sick or dead one nearby, do not touch it and contact your local animal control so it may be tested for rabies.”
Rabies isn’t very prevalent in bats, which largely feed on insects, according to DPH data, but the rate is much more so in bats found near population centers.
While less than 1% of bats in nature have rabies, according to the county’s website, about 15% bats found near people and pets in L.A. County test positive for rabies.
Anyone who encounters a dead bat on the ground is reminded by health officials not to try and touch it, as they can transmit the deadly, incurable rabies.
“Remember that the following rabies-related incidents are reportable to the Department of Public Health,” officials state on the DPH website: “Animal bites to humans (except those from squirrels, rabbits, rodents, birds and reptiles); domestic pet versus wild mammal incidents (for example, dog versus coyote, cat versus skunk, dog versus opossum); bat exposures to humans or pets.”
The form for reporting a bat is available at publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/Forms.htm and can be emailed to [email protected]. To receive a rabies consultation, ask questions about rabies or speak to a veterinarian from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday call 213-288-7060 or email [email protected].