A Payson woman contacted Don Tanner, the town's animal control officer, after discovering a bat on her West Aero Drive property.
"Berniece Gaskill was on the back side of her property when she noticed a bat flying around," Tanner said. It was approximately 1 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 2. "She said it ‘fluttered to the ground.' She held it to the ground with a rake and covered it with a bucket."
Gaskill said she had never seen bats around her property before. "Not even at night, that's why it was really strange," she said. "When I saw it I thought, ‘That's a funny looking bird.' I thought maybe it had hit a high wire, then it landed at my feet and I realized it was a bat. I knew they didn't fly during the day unless they were rabid or something."
Tanner said neither Gaskill nor her four dogs touched the bat.
Tanner collected the bat and sent it to the state health lab via United Parcel Service. Dr. Elizabeth Lawaczeck, the state veterinarian with the Arizona Department of Health Services, contacted Tanner and said the bat had tested positive for rabies.
The bat, known as a Hoary bat, is one of the largest of its species in North America and is common in the area, said Tanner. It can be found as far north as Canada and into Central and South America.
"Most of these bats tested for rabies show negative," he said, then explained they are most often solitary creatures, not part of a colony. They roost in trees, between 15 and 20 feet off the ground.
Tanner said anyone who finds a bat on the ground in the town limits should immediately contact the Payson Police Department and ask for his help. Outside of town limits, residents should call the Gila County Rabies Control Office.
"I urge parents to teach their children not to touch bats found on the ground," Tanner said. "Cat owners are strongly advised to have their pets vaccinated for rabies, even if they are indoor cats."
He said if a pet is exposed to rabies, there are only two options:
- Put the animal into quarantine for six months -- the closest facility for holding an animal in the case of rabies is the county pound in Globe and the cost is about $1,200;
- Euthanize the animal.
"Getting pets their rabies shots only costs $15 to $20," Tanner said.
Tanner can be reached at (928) 474-5177. Gila County Rabies Control can be reached at (928) 425-5882.