Rabid bat found in provincial park

by Derek Cornet

A bat found last week in the Meadow Lake Provincial Park has tested positive for rabies.

According to Dr. Clarence Bischop, Saskatchewan’s rabies risk assessment veterinarian, the rabid bat was discovered Aug. 24 at Greig Lake.  While he didn’t know the circumstances of the find, he added it’s important the public is aware of it.

“If people are going to handle a bat, they need to know it could be rabid and should take precautions by wearing gloves,” Bischop said. “If they find a bat in their house, perhaps in the bedroom where they’ve been sleeping, then for sure they should worry about rabies.”

Bischop also warned if a person ever comes across a bat laying on the ground, especially in the daytime, they should be concerned. The bat could be infected with the disease or another sickness.

But, he added, the rate of rabies in the wild is currently quite low. Bischop said bats and skunks are largely responsible for the spread of the disease, but there have been fewer cases in recent years compared to the past.

“In Canada, when people die of rabies which is extremely rare, they’ve usually picked it up in another country where rabies is an endemic, or from bats,” he remarked. “There aren’t many exposures and, when there are, public health is on the job making sure those exposed get the post-exposure treatment.”

Meanwhile, Junior Forest Warden leader Neil Marsh echoed Bischop’s stance regarding the low rabies transmission from animals to humans. He said bats typically aren’t a concern or health risk, and there’s a lot of misinformation about them in the public.

“They’re a huge benefit,” Marsh said. “They control mosquitoes and other pesky insects. They’re an important part of the natural web of life.”

Marsh went on to say the club has even gone as far as to install bat houses in Lions Park to encourage them to stay. Members of the club have been checking the structures every fall for years, but Marsh noted they have yet to be occupied.

“In town, once and a while you’ll see a stray bat but they’re seen more in their natural habitat,” he said.

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