Animal Control Officer Monitors Bats On Regular Basis

Last week, with people still buzzing about the man in the town of Barnstable who contracted rabies from a bat, a bat showed up on the first floor of the School Administration Building in Hyannis.

The town’s senior animal control officer, Charles Lewis, arrived with his bat containment device, an old coffee can.

He found the bat in a stairwell on the first floor.

Mr. Lewis got the bat into the can, took the can outside, and let the bat go.

But it would have been a different story if the bat had been discovered in the living quarters of a house, and if there was a chance that a person had been exposed to the bat.

Then Mr. Lewis would have captured the animal and sent the bat for testing to see whether the animal had rabies.

“If I think there’s been an exposure, I’m going right away,” Mr. Lewis said. “We just don’t take a chance.”

And once he learns of a bat inside living quarters, Mr. Lewis is not going to give up.“I’ve been back to a house for four days straight” until he finally found the bat in question, Mr. Lewis said.

In the mid-1980s, Mr. Lewis said, a man in the town was bitten by a bat that tested positive for rabies.

The man had been mowing his lawn. While moving the mower back into his garage, a clump of grass was knocked from the machine.

The man reached down to pick up the clump, and found a bat holding onto his finger.

The man flicked the bat into a cigar box, and got in touch with Mr. Lewis.

When the bat tested positive, the man went through the series of shots, and “was fine,” Mr. Lewis said.

Mr. Lewis said that was the first and only bat that he has come across that tested positive for rabies.

This past summer, five bats from the town were tested, but all proved negative, Mr. Lewis said.

Two weeks before the story came out about the man who contracted rabies, Mr. Lewis said, a woman was doing waterproofing in a crawl space at another person’s residence in West Barnstable, and got some of the waterproofing on bats.

So she washed the bats.

“This person feels there was no exposure,” Mr. Lewis said. “She had on the proper gloves… The homeowner is supposed to keep me updated.”

Mr. Lewis urges anyone who has a question about bats to call Barnstable Animal Control at 508-790-6274.

People who want to get in touch with animal control after hours can call the Barnstable police at 508-775-0387. “The police can reach me,” Mr. Lewis said.

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