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Central Illinois Bat Tested Postive For Rabies This Spring

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(KTVI) - Unusually warm weather for this early spring is enticing wild life to venture out just as humans are doing.

Tuesday,  Illinois reported its first case of a rabid bat for the year.  It was found in Moultrie County in central Illinois.  Two persons who came in contact with the bat are being treated according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Public Health officials urge anyone who finds a bat in their home to try to confine it so animal control agents can capture it and test it for rabies.  Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and without preventive treatment is fatal to both animals and humans.

Wild animals acting strangely or appearing to be docile should not be approached.  They may be infected with the disease and could bite anyone who reaches out to them.  If you see a bat in the daytime, that is unusual said Dan Zarlenga of the Missouri Conservation Department.

But animal experts say bats are not dangerous.  Walt Crawford, executive director of the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park points to statistics that show a larger percentage of dogs, raccoons and skunks contract rabies than do bats.

"Bats just conjure up a bunch of images because of the movies , cartoons, myths and legends," said Crawford adding, "we just have to realize they are a very, very important part of our eco system."

Bats consume hundreds of mosquitoes and bugs an hour working as a non-toxic insect control system.   "To me it's a natural control that doesn't cost you a nickel," Crawford pointed out.  Bats are endangered, however .  A disease known as the white nose syndrome is causing many to die.  That disease has been located in Lincoln County caves where bats live.

Saturday April 7 the World Bird Sanctuary will host a day long program called "Bat-turday" to introduce the public to the contributions bats make.  The facility is located off Highway 141 in Valley Park.  At the same time a free recycling event will be conducted to collect items that damage the environment for wildlife including computers, appliances and batteries.

For information check out the web site at  http://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org/index.php/events