GATLINBURG (WATE) - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is warning visitors to the park to avoid contact with bats.
recently received numerous reports of unusual winter bat activity.
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.
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.