With the advent of the game fishing season (trout and salmon), fly fishermen may accidentally come into contact with bats through hooking, and attempting to disentangle bats from their lines whilst fishing at dusk when bats are active. However, many anglers are unaware of the potential risk from this. A small proportion of Daubenton’s bats in the UK carry a rabies-like virus (European Bat Lyssavirus 2) which can cause rabies in those bitten, scratched or exposed to infected saliva. As with classical rabies, once infection has become symptomatic there is no specific treatment and almost all human cases are fatal. However, prompt post-exposure treatment is highly effective in preventing rabies and therefore medical advice should be sought as soon as possible after exposure.
Daubenton’s bats are frequently seen skimming the surface of rivers, ponds or other water bodies at dusk and take insects, particularly chironomid midges and mayflies, from close to the water surface, occasionally mistaking artificial fishing flies for the real thing. They are therefore the species most likely to be hooked by anglers.
If a bat is inadvertently hooked whilst fishing, the angler is advised to attempt to land the bat on the riverbank where it may be able to free itself from the line. The bat should not be handled directly without appropriate thick protective gloves. Further advice should be sought from the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), which holds details of bat rehabilitators across the UK and operates a national helpline (0845 1300 228). Additional information can also be found on the BCT website: www.bats.org.uk
If bitten or scratched by a bat, anglers are advised to wash the wound immediately and thoroughly (preferably with soap and water, and without scrubbing) and seek medical advice to determine whether post exposure prophylaxis is required as soon as possible.
Last reviewed: 18 June 2010