Warning for Grand Canyon Visitors: Stay away from bats

Officials have warned Grand Canyon visitors after a bat landed on a woman near the Desert View Visitor’s Center and crawled on her shorts, shirt and leg for about 10 minutes as tourist took pictures.

According to Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski, a spokeswoman for Grand Canyon National Park, the bat was caught and tested positive for rabies.

Another bat tested positive for rabies after it was found dead on the North Kaibab Trail, Shedlowski adds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a deadly viral disease found in mammals that attacks the central nervous system and leads to brain disease and death. Symptoms include fever, headache, weakness or discomfort. Others symptoms can include agitation, anxiety, confusion, difficulty swallowing, increase in saliva, insomnia, hallucinations, hydrophobia, and slight or partial paralysis.

The disease is preventable if treated quickly after exposure. Officials urge anyone exposed on their recent Grand Canyon trip to either bat to take precautionary measures by seeing a doctor and contacting the park.

The National Park Service is testing any sick or dead Grand Canyon wildlife, Shedlowski noted. Here are some tips on avoiding exposure to rabies:

• Notify an employee or call the 24-hour emergency communications center at 928-638-7805 if you spot sick or erratic-behaving wildlife.
• Never approach or touch a wild bat or any other wild animal. A healthy bat will not come near enough to be touched. Therefore, a bat that is slow, lying on the ground or lands on a person could have signs of illness. Bats out during the day are also more worrisome. If the animal lets you touch it, chances are it is sick.
• Keep up with your pets’ vaccines and keep them on a leash at all times in areas where pets are allowed.
• Teach children to tell you if they have been scratched or bitten by an animal. Children who find a bat or any other wild animal should leave it where it is and tell an adult.
• Do not touch or pick up a bat with your hands, even if you’re wearing gloves.
• If you are bitten by a bat, other wild animal, or if you think you’ve been exposed to their saliva, try to contain the animal without touching it. Notify a park employee as quickly as possible.
• It’s best to observe and appreciate wildlife from a distance.