So what are you going to do when a rabid bat gets in your tent?
No matter where in the country you’ll be camping this fall and winter, it’s very important that you heed the wildlife. That not only means just using common sense, but also dressing with protective layers around your face, hands and other exposed skin just in case you’re bitten or scratched.
Why? Rabies. It’s real, and on the rise in some states. Departments of natural resources around the country are issuing precautions over how to deal with wild animals you happen upon in your campsite or on the trail.
Bats are particularly risky, and it’s easier for one to get in your tent overnight than you might think. In Georgia and other states, wildlife authorities are warning campers that wildfires are forcing potentially rabid animals out of their sanctuaries and into campsites.
And keep this in mind: human rabies treatments must be administered quickly after exposure and can be expensive – typically around $3,000 for the standard course.
Raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats are the most common animals to have rabies. Other wild animals like bears, coyotes and bobcats can also get rabies. Even cats and dogs can get rabies if they do not have their rabies shots.
You cannot tell that an animal has rabies just by looking at it, wildlife experts advise, so stay away from wild animals and stray cats and dogs while camping. It is okay to watch wild animals from a safe distance. That is, after all, why you’re out in the wild in the first place.
Now here’s the tricky part, if you do end up with a bat in your tent or come into contact with another small animal that may have scratched you, experts recommend trying to trap it, though safely. It’s far less expensive getting this animal tested than paying for your own rabies shots.
“If you wake up and you see a bat in the corner in your sleeping area, try to test it, because that’s going to save you a lot of money and a lot of heartache,” Missoula City-County Health Department infectious disease specialist Pam Whitney told NBC Montana.
If the animal shows no symptoms over a 10-day period, then health experts say the vaccine is not necessary after exposure.
Whitney recommends knocking bats down with a broom or tennis racket. Then, cover it with a large bin while sliding something flat underneath to trap it. Finally, call your local health department so they can have the vaccine prepared if you are bitten.
Here are 13 other tips to keep in mind about rabies while camping or hiking:
- Tell your children not to pet or have other contact with wild or stray animals.
- Never approach a wild or stray animal exhibiting abnormal behaviors such as appearing to be friendly, disoriented, sick or aggressive.
- Make sure all of your pets have a current vaccination for rabies, especially those you may bring camping. Pet vaccinations are inexpensive and are very effective in protecting your pets and your family in the event of an encounter with a wild animal.
- Make sure to keep your campsite clean. Do not leave food, trash, or anything smelly out in the open or in your tents. This may attract wild animals to your campsite.
- If you are camping and do not have a car, food should be hung in a tree out of reach of animals and away from your tent.
- Do not feed or try to pet the wildlife, even if they seem friendly.
- Always stay with a buddy. Do not hike alone or at night.
- Pay attention when you are in wild areas. Look. Listen.
- Stay with your gear. Don’t walk off and leave your packs, food or drinks.
- Stay away from dead animals you find in the wild.
- Stay away from young animals you find in the wild.