Pair of rabid bats in Jackson are called a coincidence


Sitting around a campfire is

the stereotypical camping activity: Flames lick

the logs, someone roasts marshmallows while

bats and nighthawks swoop around, eating

mosquitoes.

For Ashley Pipkin that very scene in a Targhee

National Forest campsite turned less than

pastoral Aug. 10 when a bat either fell onto

her from a tree or flew into her neck in the

dark.

She reacted involuntarily.

“I grabbed it with my hand,” she said,

“then it bit me on the hand and I threw it on

the ground.”

The presumably frightened, shaken critter

scuttled into the darkness while Pipkin and her

friends discussed what it might have been. She

had a small wound on her hand, and she worried

the animal had also bitten her neck.

Then they heard it vocalizing near their

camp. For a while they could only hear it in

the vicinity of their fire, but eventually the bat

crept close to their camp and into view.

“One of my friends has the rabies vaccine

– we are a group of biologists,” Pipkin said.

“She was able to help me put it in a lunch

box.”

Given that it was nighttime, and ranger

stations and bat-testing labs were closed, the

group observed the bat in its temporary confinement.

It looked agitated and needed to

drink water, which are signs of rabies but also

signs of stress. The biologists were split on the

diagnosis, but Pipkin was “pretty sure it had

rabies.”

Pipkin took a quick trip to the Bechler

Ranger Station, then the Centers for Disease

Control lab in Bozeman, Mont., where she

dropped the bat off to scientists who could

confirm or deny the bat’s diagnosis. Because

it was the weekend, Pipkin had to wait until

Monday for results.

“I expected a call about 1:30 p.m. my

time,” said Pipkin, who lives in Nevada. “I

got the call, and they said it tested positive.”

When Pipkin talked with the News&Guide

on Tuesday, she was tired from the first shot in

the rabies treatment, a four- or five-shot regimen

that can take up to a month. Her contact

with the rabid bat came just a few days after

a visitor to Grand Teton National Park had an

oddly similar experience.

For Pipkin the incident seems unlikely to

change a thing, other than her vaccination

chart and her pocketbook after she finishes

paying the emergency room copays she will

owe each time she gets a shot. As a biologist

she spends a lot of time working in the field,

and she sees bats regularly while out at dusk.

That seems unlikely to change.

“I don’t want people to be scared of bats

because of this,” she said. “I see bats all the

time, and bats are still my friends, even after

this.”

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