UPDATE: USFWS Bat Handling Protocol for COVID-19
The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), may pose a threat to North American bat populations. A risk assessment was recently conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), to evaluate the potential for transmission of COVID-19 from humans to bats. The results of this risk assessment were published in the open-file report titled: Assessing the Risks Posed by SARS-CoV-2 in and via North American Bats – Decision Framing and Rapid Risk Assessment. Given the current state of knowledge expressed by the expert panel, the results of this assessment indicate that there is a non-negligible risk of transmission of COVID-19 from humans to bats.
Based on the results of the risk assessment, the director of the USFWS released a memo dated June 12, 2020, which rescinds any previous recommendations to suspend bat handling. USFWS recommends that bat surveys be conducted with the use of COVID-specific personal protective equipment (PPE). There is still much research to be completed; therefore, the decision to allow mist-netting will be determined on a state-by-state basis by their USFWS field office, and the individual state natural resource agencies.
EnviroScience is staying up to date with current bat handling protocols from local state agencies and USFWS field offices. Our biologists are equipped with all the required COVID-specific PPE and are here to help keep your project moving. Do not hesitate to reach out to our biologists with any questions or concerns. Our technical point of contact is Jamie Willaman, JWillaman@EnviroScienceInc.com.