When freshman Jackie Arnold walked into her room in Moore Hall last October and saw a small brown animal on her floor, she thought it was a mouse. But when she got closer, it hissed at her. Arnold’s room was home to a bat.
Arnold and her roommate Holly Speck called the nonemergency University Facilities number. Facilities workers captured the bat and took it away.
The bat was never tested for rabies, said Steve Bisese, vice president for student development.
Since the bat in Arnold’s room in October, four other bats have been found in Moore Hall, all in the past three weeks. All of those bats were tested for rabies, and those results were negative.
Freshmen Molly Aaronson and Kate Buckley found a bat flying around their room shortly after returning from Winter Break.
“I was immediately horrified,” Aaronson said. “The problem was, we didn’t know how long it had been in there. We just saw it flying around.”
Aaronson and Buckley found a second bat in their room Monday night. Bats were also found in a shower and a hallway in Moore Hall.
University Police Department Chief Dave McCoy said: “If there has been no human contact, URPD or Facilities will just take the bat outside and release it because it is a protected species to a certain degree. Now if there has been exposure, that bat needs to be tested.”
University of Richmond hired Virginia Wildlife Company in October to inspect the building and campus staff did some work to repair the identified problem areas where bats could get in.
“After the first one,” Bisese said, “they did stuff and there was a false sense of ‘I guess there’s no bats.’”
After the four other bats were found this semester, the company was brought in again to inspect and Richmond staff did more extensive work.
They sealed all of the crevices, repaired some of the window screens and capped the chimneys in Moore Hall. The work was finished Monday, before the second bat was found in Aaronson and Buckley’s room.
“It’s disconcerting to us just as much as it is to the students,” McCoy said, “and we’re going to really work hard to fix this issue.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, approximately 6 percent of bats that are tested for rabies have the disease. The website says that most bats do not have rabies, but it is impossible to know by looking at a bat. The only way to know is through laboratory testing.
“Any bat that is active by day or is found in a place where bats are not usually seen, like in your home or on your lawn, just might be rabid,” the CDC website says. “A bat that is unable to fly and is easily approached could very well be sick.”
Aaronson and Buckley were notified later that the bat found in their room was tested for rabies and the results were negative.
McCoy said the police could not recommend medical advice and they could not advise anyone whether they need rabies shots or not. He said it was possible to be bitten while sleeping and not be aware of the bite.
Arnold, Speck, Aaronson and Buckley all received rabies shots at the urging of their parents directly after the bats were found in their rooms. There are seven shots total, given in three different rounds of treatment. Richmond covered the cost of the rabies shots that was not already covered by insurance.
Bisese said that after this incident, the school would be better prepared to handle similar situations in the future. He said they were putting together a protocol involving Facilities, the Housing Office, the Student Health Center and campus police.
“It’s something that has not happened [before] that I can remember,” Bisese said, “and I think everybody wanted to do the right thing… I think everybody learned a lot from it.”
McCoy requested that any students who come in contact with bats, either in their rooms or in common areas, immediately call Facilities or the police and do not attempt to capture the bat on their own.
Contact staff writer Katie Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org