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Animal Control Bat Calls Up For 2013

Forget about snakes. This summer, Richmond had bats in its belfry.

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Word that city dwellers have seen an unusual number of snakes this summer prompts a call to Richmond Animal Care and Control. The conversation proceeds thusly:

"Snakes? No. Not really. Our numbers of snake calls are about the same. Bats, on the other hand. … I'm not sure what's going on with bats in people's houses this year."

Animal control officers responded to 66 bat calls in 2012. Seven months into this year they were up to 74, says Christie Peters, the director of Richmond Animal Care and Control. All — alive and dead — were caught inside people's houses.

Peters isn't sure what kind of bats they are. But she does know an animal control officer responded to a dwelling where someone used a trap to catch 32 bats.

"They're probably big brown bats," says Julia Murphy, state public health veterinarian. "Yes, a big, brown bat — it is a type of bat," she says. "Back in the day, when bats were being named they could have given it one with more pop."

BBBs, as we'll call them, form maternity colonies and are drawn to manmade structures, Murphy says. Her department tests for rabies any captured bat that might have come into contact with a human or animal. Rabies in bats — and in humans — is rare, but, Murphy says, a disproportionate number of human rabies cases appear to be associated with bat contact. So far, the department's tested 605 bats from across the state — well within the usual range. Eleven tested positive for rabies, also within typical range.

So there you have it. Snakes in the grass. Bats in the attic. Another Richmond summer passes.

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