Park rangers warn visitors to avoid bats

Park rangers warn visitors to avoid bats


GATLINBURG (WATE) - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is warning visitors to the park to avoid contact with bats.

Wildlife staff recently received numerous reports of unusual winter bat activity.

Normally bats should be hibernating during the winter, but park officials have received reports of bats 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 eating insects including mosquitoes and agricultural insect pests.

One of the species in the park, the Indiana bat, is federally endangered. 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.  

more information regarding bats and rabies is available on the CDC website.

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