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BATS and rabies

close-up photo of a bat

The primary carrier of rabies in the Northwest is bats.  Contact with bats should be avoided.

Never handle a bat with bare hands!



Bats benefit humans and the environment as they are effective predators of night-flying insects (including mosquitoes), and act as pollinators of plants and trees. Unfortunately, bats can carry rabies, a deadly virus, so contact with bats should be avoided.

Any mammal, including humans, can get rabies, but some types of animals, such as bats, skunks, coyotes, and raccoons, are known to be carriers of rabies. The primary carrier of rabies in the Northwest is bats. Contact with all wildlife—especially bats—should be avoided.

Preventing Rabies Exposure:

  • Avoid contact with bats and never touch a bat with bare hands.
  • Teach children never to handle or touch bats, and to tell an adult if they find a bat at home, at school or with a pet.
  • Keep bats out of your house by "bat-proofing" your home.
  • Enjoy wildlife from a safe distance; do not approach or attempt to feed or touch them.
  • Do not keep wild animals as pets.
  • Do not attempt to pick up a sick or injured bat or other animal.
  • Vaccinate your pets.


If a person… They should:
  • Is bitten or scratched by a bat that cannot be safely captured.
  • Wash the bite or wound with soap and water.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room for preventative rabies treatment.

NOTE: If a bat that has scratched or bitten a person or pet is not available for testing, you should assume the bat could be rabid and seek rabies preventative treatment from a healthcare provider or veterinarian.

  • Is bitten or scratched by a bat that has been or can be safely captured.
  • Finds a bat in the home:
    • In a room or with access to a room with a sleeping person (e.g. bedroom door open to a hallway).
    • In a room with an unattended child.
    • In a room with a person under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who has another sensory or mental impairment.
  • Finds a bat near a small child outside.
  • Attempt to safely capture the bat (see instructions below). Do not release a live bat or throw out a dead bat that has had contact with a person or pet.
  • Contact the Kitsap Public Health District at (360) 728-2235. We will determine if the bat needs to be tested and if the person exposed to the bat should see their healthcare provider for preventative rabies treatment.  
  • Finds a pet with a bat (dead or alive).
  • Knows that a pet was bitten or scratched by a bat.
  • Attempt to safely capture the bat (see instructions below). Do not release a live bat or throw out a dead bat that has had contact with a person or pet.
  • If the bat can be safely captured, contact the Kitsap Public Health District at (360) 728-2235 to discuss the possibility of rabies testing.
  • Contact your veterinarian right away to have your pet receive a dose of rabies vaccine (regardless of rabies immunization status) and to discuss the exposure.
  • Has concerns after being bitten by a pet or other domestic animal. 
  • Call 911 who will contact local animal control.
  • Contact your veterinarian.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have health concerns.



VIDEO: Safely capturing a bat
FLYER: How to safely capture a bat

  • Do not touch the bat with bare hands.
  • If you find a live bat in your living space, close the doors and windows to the room.
  • Wait until the bat lands on the floor or a wall. Place an empty can, box, or wastebasket over the bat and slide cardboard underneath to contain the bat without touching it.
  • If the bat is still flying, try gently striking it with a broom or tennis racket in order to knock it down. You can also try to capture it in a net. Be careful not to touch the bat or to hit it too hard; you do not want to damage the skull or brain, which is needed for testing.
  • Wearing leather or other thick gloves, place the bat in a rigid container (e.g., coffee can or Tupperware) and seal it. Avoid touching the head. See further instructions on storage of the bat below.
  • Place the sealed can or jar in a safe place, such as against the wall on top of a counter, where it can't fall or break until you get further advice about it from the Health District or your healthcare provider.
  • For a live bat, punch a few very small holes (less than 1/2 inch in diameter) in the container or lid for the bat to breathe. Place the sealed container in an area where it won't be accessible to other people, accidentally knocked over, or broken.
  • Do not refrigerate or freeze a live bat.
  • For a dead bat, store in a container (e.g., coffee can or Tupperware) inside a cold cooler or refrigerator until you have talked to Kitsap Public Health about the bat.


  • If the bat is alive, you can carefully release the bat outside and away from your home. Be cautious not to touch the bat while releasing it. Wear thick leather gloves while removing the lid from the container and open it facing away from you and other people.
  • A dead bat should be doubled bagged in plastic bags and disposed of in the household garbage. Again, thick gloves should be used to avoid any direct contact with the bat even if it is dead.


Each year, rabid bats are found throughout Washington state, including Kitsap County, however, most bats in Washington state and in the United States do not carry rabies. It is estimated that less than 1% of bats in the wild are infected with rabies. The vast majority (90-95%) of the bats tested for rabies in Washington are not infected.




* Updated 9/6/18







  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:
  • Bat Conservation International:
  • “Here’s What to do if there is a bat in my school” (English, Spanish)



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