There are 11 species of bats found throughout Ohio. All of these species are insectivorous (feed on insects) and are nocturnal (active at night) or crepuscular (most active at dusk and dawn). Bats are beneficial because they feed on and help to control many agricultural pests.
Depending on the species, some bats such as the hoary bat, the red bat and the silver-haired bat, migrate south in the cold winter months when insects are rare in Ohio. Other bats hibernate during the winter. In Ohio, bats typically hibernate from late October to early April in caves, abandoned mines, cracks in large rock outcroppings or attics and buildings.
If a bat is in your house and you have any question about whether the bat has been in contact with people or pets, you will want to have the bat captured and tested. Call your local health department and animal control agency for assistance. If professional assistance is not available, please follow the steps described in the video below to safely capture the bat and save it for testing.
Bats can carry diseases that can spread to people or animals.
What bat-related diseases are of concern in Ohio?
Histoplasmosis is caused by the fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasma can be found in soil throughout the Ohio Valley, but it can also be shed in large numbers in bat droppings. People can get histoplasmosis after breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air.
Although most people who breathe in the spores don't get sick, those who do may have a fever, cough and fatigue. Many people who get histoplasmosis will get better on their own without medication, but in some people, such as those with weakened immune systems, the infection can become severe. Contact your healthcare provider for more information about testing and treatment.
Additional information is available on protecting workers at risk for histoplasmosis.
Rabies virus can infect any species of mammal. It causes encephalitis and is almost always fatal once symptoms develop. It is spread when a person or animal is bitten by an infected animal or, less commonly, when saliva from an infected animal gets into an open wound or onto a mucous membrane.
Most of the human rabies cases acquired within the United States during the past 20 years were due to bat strains of rabies. Since a bat bite is very small and may go undetected, the history of any potential bat contact should be carefully evaluated to determine the potential for exposure. All exposures should be reported to the local health department and the bat tested for rabies if it is available.
It is also important to vaccinate your pets against rabies. Bats can enter your home through an opening as small as a quarter inch by a half inch. It is important to examine your home for holes that might allow bats to enter your living quarters. This is why even indoor cats should be vaccinated against rabies.
If you would like additional information on potential exposure criteria, safely capturing a bat for testing or general information, please review the resources on this page.