The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and Animal Care Services advise the community that, as with every spring season, the Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are migrating back to the area, increasing the chances of a potential exposure to rabies.
When a person comes in contact and/or is bitten by a bat, the animal must be submitted for testing to confirm that they are infected with the rabies virus. If an injured or ill bat is found in or around a structure, it should be removed. Metro Health asks the community to follow this guidance on dealing with bats:
- Teach children that they should never touch a bat regardless of whether it is living or dead. Children should be taught to tell an adult immediately if they see or touch a bat.
- If you or your pet makes contact with a bat, immediately call Animal Care Services at 311 to have them pick up the bat for testing. County residents should call (210) 335-9000 during weekdays and (210) 335-6000 option #1 during afterhours. State law dictates any actual or potential rabies exposure must be reported to ACS for investigation and potential testing.
- If the bat is within a home or building, try to confine the bat to a room or area by closing any open doors or windows. Avoid any direct contact with the bat.
- Avoid striking the bat, if at all possible, and wait for Animal Care Services to respond. Physical trauma can damage the brain and make it impossible to conduct rabies laboratory tests.
- Pets that come into contact with a bat should be confined to prevent further exposure to other people or animals. Remember! All dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies annually in keeping with city and state law.
The Mexican free-tailed bats are medium sized with reddish to dark brown or gray fur. They have broad, black, forward pointing ears, and wrinkled lips. Their tails extend more than one third beyond the tail membranes and their wings are long and narrow. Most of these bats migrate south to Central America and Mexico during the winter and migrate back to the San Antonio area during the spring.
Mexican free-tails prefer to roost in caves, but will also choose attics, under bridges, or in abandoned buildings. They choose roosts near water. The water attracts the insects they eat, as well as allowing them the opportunity to drink. These bats may have a life span of up to 18 years.