The use of fear in news media to generate interest and ratings is rampant and recently, several local news stations have used fear of wildlife to sell their stories. You might remember our recent post “Professionals don’t kill rattlesnakes.” KFDA News Channel 10 recently warned viewers about bats and rabies because spring migration is here. We have a special place in our hearts for Ch 10 because we started on TV there, so we’ll be gentle here.
Reality check: You should be as afraid of rabid bats as you are of trucks, both can certainly kill you. Step in front of a truck and your chances of survival about the same as if you contract rabies and do nothing. Just don’t touch a bat and you’ll be fine. If you come in to contact with a bat, go to the doctors and get the rabies shots and your prognosis is far better than with the truck! Rabid bats aren’t coming for you, they are sick so they end up in strange places and this is where a poor decision can get you in trouble.
Further, skunks are a far larger rabies problem for the panhandle and Ch 10 failed to mention that. Last year there were at least 10 cases of rabies in skunks in the panhandle while only 3 cases in bats. This is consistently the case. There is a specialist with the state health department stationed at WTAMU that could have easily addressed all these issues but instead the Canyon Police Chief was interviewed. He did well, but his office is just blocks from a specialist.
Fear of rabid bats is misplaced, counterproductive and frankly harmful. Expect more from your news stations and you can always let them know your thoughts through the power of social media.
Jessie asked me about bats and rabies a few month ago while we were in our favorite cave here in Armstrong County. I am sitting on top of a mound of guano under a colony of about 10,000 free-tailed bats.
This is an active maternity colony and the downed bats you see are common in these large colonies (we don’t suspect rabies) as unfortunately are parasites. We have paid the price for our films on occasion.