Great Smoky Mountains National Park wildlife staff recently received numerous reports of unusual winter bat activity. Normally, bats should be hibernating during the winter, but bats have been described as flying erratically during the day and diving down toward people. Park biologists do not know the exact cause of this unusual bat activity, but urge all visitors to exercise caution as bats are known to carry diseases such as rabies. Skin to skin contact should be avoided.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the transmission of rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats. For human safety, it is important not to touch or handle a bat. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends you seek immediate medical advice if you have had skin to skin exposure to a bat.
The park is home to at least 11 species of bats that play a critical role in the health of ecosystems by consuming insects including mosquitoes and agricultural insect pests. One of the species in the park, the Indiana bat, is federally endangered and another, the Rafinesque's big-eared bat, is a state listed species of concern in both Tennessee and North Carolina.
If you see a bat or any other wild animal that is acting strange and you suspect it may be sick or injured, avoid the animal and contact Park Communications at 865-436-1230. Unusual bat activity outside the park should be reported to state wildlife agencies.
For more information regarding bats and rabies, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/