Cook County Releases Halloween Rabid Bat Map to Highlight Rabies Prevention
Eight rabid bats have been found so far this year
The Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control (ARC) has released an interactive map of locations where bats who tested positive for rabies were found in Cook County. So far this year eight rabid bats have been found. The Halloween-themed map is designed to raise awareness about rabies prevention.
“Rabies is a 100% preventable disease and is always fatal to unvaccinated pets,” said Dr. Tom Wake, DVM, administrator of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control. “Ensuring your dogs and cats are current on rabies and other vaccinations will help keep them healthy and happy.”
According to Dr. Wake, a significant number of these bats were found inside people’s homes, and pets who primarily stay indoors still have the potential to be exposed to rabies. In 2020, indoor cats were diagnosed with rabies nearly four times more frequently than dogs nationally. “We generally don’t hesitate to vaccinate dogs, but there is a misconception that indoor cats cannot be exposed to the virus, which is simply not true,” he said.
In June, ARC resumed low-cost rabies vaccine and microchip clinics to help protect pets. New this year, ARC partnered with animal organizations throughout Cook County to help vaccinate more than 4,000 pets against rabies and administered almost 3,000 microchips. View the list of upcoming rabies vaccine and microchip clinics.
Dr. Wake reminds residents that rabies is almost always fatal to humans if left untreated. The viral disease is transmitted through saliva and spread when an infected animal scratches or bites another animal or human. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you’ve been in contact with any wildlife or unfamiliar animals, particularly if you’ve been bitten or scratched, you should talk with a healthcare or public health professional to determine your risk for rabies or other illnesses.
While wild animals such as bats should never be handled by residents, they do play an important role in the County’s ecosystem, such as consuming large amounts of insects including mosquitoes. A single half-ounce little brown bat can eat half its body weight in insects each night.
Healthy bat populations reflect a complex ecosystem that provides the food and habitat they need. “Bats are amazing flying mammals that act as important biomonitors, helping to indicate the health of our environment,” said Chris Anchor, senior wildlife biologist for the Forest Preserves of Cook County.”
The Forest Preserves has been actively surveying and researching bats for more than four decades, documenting nine species in Cook County. About half of Cook County bat species are colonial and roost in groups of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. The other species are solitary and can be found hanging alone or in small maternal family groups in trees and shrubs.
Cook County’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department created the map using data provided by ARC. "Using GIS to create a themed interactive map for residents is an incredibly helpful way to display the positive rabies cases,” said Wig Ingente, GIS program coordinator.
For more information about rabies prevention, visit www.cookcountyil.gov/service/rabies-prevention.