Western Pipistrelle Bats in the Grand Canyon

The canyon's bats can be seen darting through the darkness in search of beetles, moths and flies. Two tested positive for rabies. Should you worry?
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Pipistrellus Bat

Pipistrellus Bat by Mnolf [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Grand Canyon might be home to over 350 bird species, but when the sun goes down and the moon slips above the horizon, it's time to huddle around the campfire and keep an eye out for bats. Along the canyon's rim, the Western Pipistrelle can be seen darting through the darkness in search of beetles, moths and flies. The Pipistrelle can be hard to see (it's the smallest bat in the United States) but if you do catch a glimpse of one, make sure to identify it by looking at their face and ears, which are usually black. (Yes we know that's going to be a tough one since it's dark and out and they're small.) The Pipistrelle's main predators are owls and larger bats, so even if you do see one picked off, you'll get to add another sighting to your logbook.

What does the Western Pipistrelle Bat look like?

Check out this video:

Do Bats Carry Rabies?

In July of 2014, two bats in the Grand Canyon tested positive for rabies. One bat was acting unusual at a visitor center, coming in contact with a visitor. The bat was killed and tested positive. The other bat was found dead on the North Kaibab Trail.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease found in mammals that attacks the central nervous system and leads to brain disease and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is preventable if treated quickly after exposure. Officials urged anyone exposed to either bat to take precautionary measures by seeing a doctor and contacting the park. They encouraged park visitors to avoid animals that exhibit unusual or aggressive behavior or are not afraid of people. Source: www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/2014/07/20/arizona-grand-canyon-bats-rabies/12917095/

Bats are mammals and all mammals can contract rabies, however bats don't naturally ‘carry' the disease. In reality, bats catch rabies far less than other animals. Less than 1/2 of 1% of all bats may contract the disease. A variety of mammals can catch rabies, including foxes, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, bats, foxes, cats and dogs and even livestock. Read more fallacies about bats and rabies at batworld.org/rabies-info/

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