A third Mexican free-tailed bat, like the one pictured, testing positive for rabies is found at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park on Sept. 9. Photo courtesy USFWS/Ann Froschauer
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Third rabid bat found at Safari Park

ESCONDIDO — Three Mexican free-tailed bats testing positive for rabies have now been found at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park this year. The third and most recent bat was found on the park’s grounds on Sept. 9.

The other two instances occurred on June 10 and July 11. All of the bats were found at the Oasis Deli, in the park’s Nairobi Village area. On each occasion park staff collected the bats and sent them to the county for testing.

“None of the bats found at the park have had any reported direct human contacts,” according to José A. Álvarez of the County of San Diego Communications Office. “The staff at the park have handled each bat appropriately.”

None of the bats found were part of the park’s collection.

Christina Simmons, a spokeswoman for San Diego Zoo Global, explained that more than half of the land being managed at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is set aside as native species habitat.

“This means there is a large track of native habitat nearby this area,” said Simmons.

Álvarez said the county is working with the Safari Park zoo staff to determine whether there may be a common source for these bats, but bats are found throughout the county.

“The species we keep seeing is a federally listed protected species and, as they find roosting spots around the Safari Park (probably they hunt for insects over our evening sky) we are not allowed, under federal law, to disrupt them in anyway,” said Simmons. “As conservationists we are fully aware of what species they are and the requirements of protecting this species. I suspect many of the landholders around us do not realize they are an endangered species.”

According to Álvarez, the bat discovered in the afternoon on Sept. 9 was delivered to the county the following morning, and expedited testing was done Saturday afternoon.

The test involves euthanizing the bats in order to conduct a brain tissue examination to determine whether they are positive for rabies.

“People are urged to never handle a live or dead bat, and to notify the County Health and Human Services Agency immediately if they have had a direct interaction with a bat,” said Álvarez.

Contact the agency by calling (619) 692-8499.