SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Health is reminding the public not to touch unknown animals or wildlife in distress and to instead, report incidents to city or county animal control services. NMDOH reports that in June the department has received increasing reports of people coming into contact with bats.

The department states in a press release that due to high temperatures and lack of water, bats can have the tendency to fall on the ground from their perches where the nocturnal animals usually hang during daylight. The bats’ reaction to extreme heat may make them appear to be ill and display unusual behavior.

NMDOH explains that rabies is a viral disease that is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected animal and affects the central nervous system and ultimately causes disease in the brain and death. While most bats don’t carry rabies, anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a bat should consult with their health care provider and NMDOH to determine whether they need a rabies vaccination.

Parents are urged to teach their children not to touch strange animals and to tell adults if they see one. NMDOH reports that two bats from Torrance County have tested positive for rabies in New Mexico in 2021.

Last year in New Mexico, nine bats tested positive for rabies in Bernalillo, Colfax, Doña Ana, Luna, Socorro, and Valencia counties. NMDOH provides the following tips to protect the public from rabies:

  • Keep pets on a leash when outdoors at all times. Pets should be up to date on rabies vaccinations and should also be wearing current license tag on their collar. If your pet is bitten or scratched, call a veterinarian even if the wound appears to be minor.
  • Horses and other livestock should be considered for rabies vaccination in order to protect them from rabid animals that may attack them.
  • Stay away from unfamiliar and wild animals. This includes animals that are acting sick, fearless, aggressive, or friendly. Don’t try to feed, approach, or touch wild animals that are alive or dead.
  • If you or a loved one is bitten by an animal or come into contact with an animal’s saliva, wash the site immediately with soap and water. Report the bite immediately to local animal control, seek medical care, and call NMDOH at 505-827-0006 to determine if a rabies exposure protective vaccination is necessary.