Serving Chicagoland’s wildlife and pest control needs for over 40 years!

Bat Infestations and Rabies: What To Do

Bats, Blog, Uncategorized 0

Bat InfestationsThe most common bat infestations found in residences in Illinois are Little Brown Bats and the Big Brown Bats. Most colonies of these bats number from a few dozen to a few hundred individuals, and while their natural habitat is generally a cave or hollow tree, they are well adapted to live in human-made structures including beneath bridges and within barns, silos, and our homes.



Bat Infestations in Homes

In addition to communicating using echolocation, bats communicate with one another using pheromones. Once a gap, crack, or vulnerability leading into a structure has been discovered by bats, the scent trails those bats leave behind hold enduring allure to others of their kind, exposing certain buildings to recurring bat infestations even after the bats are removed. Simply put, without sealing up every gap and crack, bat infestations in structures will continue, because the scent of bats that have been there in the past is a strong attractant to new bats.

Bat Rabies

While bats are important for the environment, because they eat many harmful insects such as mosquitoes, bat infestations in human-occupied structures pose a danger to the human occupants. Bats carry rabies, and while most bats are free from rabies, up to five percent of bats tested in Illinois carry the disease.

While rabies is generally 100 percent fatal once symptoms develop, it is also preventable so long as rabies shots are administered before the onset of symptoms. In the United States every year, more than 50,000 people undergo rabies shots to prevent the disease after exposure to a potentially rabid animal.

If a bat with rabies finds its way into a bedroom, it can bite or lick a sleeping person, and potentially infect the person with rabies. Bats’ teeth are so small that a sleeping person may not realize they have been bitten. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control states that if a sleeping person wakes up to find a bat in their bedroom, this constitutes an exposure, even if no evidence of a bite is detected.

Here are four of the most common questions about bats:

Q: Can I be exposed to rabies if a bat comes near me?

A: People are not at risk of rabies if a bat comes near them, as long as the bat does not make physical contact. When we move around outdoors in the evening, mosquitoes and other insects gather around us, because they are attracted to the heat of our bodies and the carbon dioxide we exhale. Bats are attracted to these insects, and they may swoop down to hunt insects near us. While it is normal to have bats come within six to 10 feet of us, it is never normal for a bat to make physical contact or to come any closer than that. If a bat bumps into a person, the person should contact their physician or the Department of Public Health.

Q: If I wake up with a bat in my bedroom and there is no sign of a bite, do I need a rabies shot?

A: Waking up with a bat in the bedroom can be a scary experience, but it is important to remain calm and make good decisions. With the right preparation, you will be just fine. Here are the steps to take if you wake up with a bat in your room:

  1. Close any open windows to make sure the bat does not escape.
  2. If there is a bathroom or closet, close those doors to limit the bat’s ability to hide.
  3. Exit your bedroom and close the door immediately to trap the bat inside.
  4. Stuff a towel under the door to block off the bat’s ability to escape into the rest of your home.
  5. Call a professional to capture the bat immediately.
  6. Request that the bat is tested for rabies right away, and ask for proof of the bat’s rabies test results within 48 to 72 hours. If you cannot obtain proof of the bat’s negative rabies status within 72 hours, you should begin the rabies shot series to prevent the onset of rabies.
  7. If the bat tests negative for rabies, and you have the result within 72 hours, no additional follow up is needed.
  8. Should the bat test positive for rabies, you should contact your physician or the Department of Public Health and go to the emergency department of your local hospital to receive rabies shots.
  9. If the bat escaped and was not available for rabies testing, you should contact your physician or the Department of Public Health and go to the emergency department of your local hospital to receive rabies shots.

Q: What should I do if I know that I have been bitten by a bat?

A: Wound washing is very important in the case of a known bite. Seek medical attention if you know that you have been bitten by a bat or any wild animal, so that the bite can be washed out correctly. You may even want to flush the bite with warm running water at home before you head to the hospital. The hospital will probably start you on the post-exposure prophylaxis (rabies shot) series promptly, but if the bat tests negative for rabies, they will likely stop your vaccine series after the first dose. In the coming weeks, you can save yourself from receiving additional unnecessary vaccines by making sure the bat gets tested. If the bat tests positive for rabies, you will need to complete the full vaccine series.

Q: Are bats a risk to my pets?

A: Dogs and cats can contract rabies if the pets are not vaccinated. Vaccinated pets are not at risk.

If you believe that bats may be living inside of your building, have the building inspected by a professional bat exclusion contractor. Bats have oil on their fur that creates rub marks where they are entering, and a trained professional will be able to see these rub marks and look for other signs, such as guano. Seal up any gap that is a quarter of an inch or greater to prevent bats from entering. Repeat this process every five years, as normal settling over time can expose new gaps and vulnerabilities, leading to more bat infestations.

Rebecca Fyffe is a wildlife educator with ABC Humane Wildlife Control & Prevention, Inc. She supervises a team of certified bat exclusion experts and is also the deputy director of the nonprofit Wildlife Control Policy Institute. For questions, please contact Rebecca by email at or by telephone at (847) 870-7175.



The opinions expressed in this article do not constitute medical advice. Only your physician can give medical advice.

About the author / 


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact Us Now!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

What They Say About ABC Humane Wildlife

I arranged for them to install wire screening on 2 sides of a concrete stoop to prevent animals from digging under my porch. (I have used this company in the past to remove animals from other parts of my property. They suggested this proactive work.) They called to remind me several days before their appointment. They came as promised. They did a great job of preserving landscaping gravel on the side before they dug. After digging down approximately 18 inches, they installed wire mesh screening down the 2 sides of the stoop. They then covered the area with the dirt and final layer of landscaping stones. You couldn’t even tell the area had been excavated when they were done!
Debra Walker – Downers Grove, IL
We had bees crawling under exterior siding through a gap between siding and brick wall and wanted them eliminated. Phil the technician from ABC arrived at the scheduled time. He observed the bees and identified them as yellow jackets. Phil said he could eradicate them with a powder treatment and the bee activity would die down in a couple of days and we would be finished with the problem. Phil said if we still noticed bee activity after 7 days to call ABC and they would come back to re-treat the nest at no charge. It is just 3 days since Phil treated the nest and we have observed zero bee activity. We are very happy with the service and the remedy to our problem.
Elizabeth Monahan – Chicago, IL
One by one, they removed a family of nine flying squirrels from our attic. The attic was completely cleaned and sanitized, and new insulation as blown in. All went well. It was easy to make appointments with ABC Humane Wildlife Control, and they were all very profession and prompt with their service. We dealt with many on their staff while trying to catch all the squirrels, and each of the representatives were friendly and helpful. We had some issues with the condition of some of the traps, but that was eventually resolved. They are a very helpful organization and the staff is very knowledgeable.
Martha Buchan – Lincolnshire, IL

Skunk Smell Removal

Skunk Smell Removal

Help! My dog was sprayed by a skunk!

The first step in “de-skunking” your pet is to rinse him/her off with a hose bath and pet shampoo outside. After that, bring him/her indoors for a warm bath with dish soap. Get our "de-skunk" recipe!

ABC Wildlife Scholarship

ABC Wildlife Scholarship

Women in STEM Scholarship

As a woman-owned corporation operating in a largely male field, we understand the remarkable impact women can have. We want to pave the way for other women pursuing their dreams in the scientific world, which is why ABC Wildlife has created a scholarship for women in STEM. Learn more about the scholarhip.

Help Injured or Orphaned Wildlife

Help Injured or Orphaned Wildlife

How to Help Sick, Injured, or Orphaned Wildlife

To protect the health and safety of people and wildlife, members of the general public should not handle wildlife. Learn what to do if you find a sick or injured animal.

ABC Humane Wildlife Better Business Bureau A+
Greater Chicago Pest Management Alliance
National Pest Control Association