The discovery of a dead bat in Riverside County Tuesday afternoon brought the number of recent dead bat incidents in the region to three, a string that officials called uncommon but not an immediate cause for concern.
"It’s not unusual to see bats in this area, but what is unique is when you find a bat in the daytime," said John Welsh, spokesman for the Department of Animal Services. "Most times, if you see a bat in the daytime, or if it’s on the sidewalk, something’s wrong with it. In most cases, it’s dead, but in some cases, it’s sick."
An employee at Highgrove Elementary School found a dead bat on the school’s playground Tuesday, and two similar dead bat cases were reported last week, Welsh said.
Several reports of dead bats have also surfaced in San Bernardino County in recent weeks, Welsh said, adding that this particular species of bats -- known as "Mexican free-tailed bats" -- are prevalent in Southern California.
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But, he said, these occurrences can sometimes happen in "streaks," with many incidents happening near each other in one month and none happening in another.
"It’s kind of a weird little bunching," he said. "It happens from time to time where you’ll get a few in the row."
Animal Service workers are currently testing the Highgrove bat for rabies. The Highgrove employee was not bitten, and no school children were present at the time since the elementary school is on summer break, Welsh said.
These tests typically take one to two days to complete, Welsh said.
A 55-year-old man who reported a dead bat June 6 did face exposure to rabies after handling the rabid animal with his bare hand, Welsh said.
The man had been removing some debris from a drain when he reached in and pulled out the dead bat, possibly touching the animal’s mouth and fangs in the process, Welsh said.
The man is currently undergoing treatment.
Individuals can contract rabies through physical contact, not just biting, Welsh said. In addition, since the Mexican free-tailed bat is typically smaller in size, Welsh said most individuals may not notice if they have been bitten.
"These are not the large vampire bats we’re used to seeing," he said. "They’re actually very small, so if they did bite you, you barely feel the prick. It’s almost like a mosquito bite."
Still, Welsh said individuals should not go into a "panic mode" but instead use the recent events as an opportunity to encourage others to be cautious around dead animals.
He said it is especially important for parents to tell their kids not to handle a dead bat if they see one on the ground, adding that children will sometimes want to touch the animal out of curiosity.
In addition, Welsh said he did not want people to "hate bats just because some of them have rabies," pointing to the helpful ways bats can contain a city’s insect population.
Welsh said the Department of Animal Services has addressed these incidents by increasing outreach efforts to educate the public about the recent bat findings.
Riverside Country individuals who want to report a dead animal can contact the Department of Animal Services at (951) 358-7045.