Sitting around a campfire is
the stereotypical camping activity: Flames lick
the logs, someone roasts marshmallows while
bats and nighthawks swoop around, eating
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
She reacted involuntarily.
“I grabbed it with my hand,” she said,
“then it bit me on the hand and I threw it on
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
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
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