Interim Guidance for Wildlife Collector Permit Bat-related Activities in Response to COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2)
Last edited on June 17, 2020.
Protection of Missouri’s Bat Populations.
There is no evidence that Missouri bats have COVID-19 (SARS-CoV02), the virus that is causing the human pandemic. All viruses that have been identified in US bats are alphacoronaviruses, while COVID-19 is a betacoronavirus. This guidance was developed to address the risks associated with reverse zoonosis, the transfer of the COVID-19 virus from infected humans to bats. The COVID-19 virus has been demonstrated to exist in species other than humans and to transmit from humans to other species (Chen 2020). The risks to native bats are unclear both in terms of short-term mortality in potentially immuno-compromised animals and in terms of the longer-term risks to humans, bats, and other wildlife.
While preliminary results on the risk of US bats contracting the disease are encouraging, they are very preliminary and do not indicate a complete lack of risk. This guidance has been prepared to address immediate needs within Missouri. As detailed studies on this issue are completed and more information becomes available, the guidance provided will be changed to reflect current science.
- Missouri Wildlife Collector’s Permittees are not allowed to collect/handle live bats for the “Collection Purposes” listed below. The Department recommends using bat acoustic detectors and other activities that do not require handling of live bats (e.g., using mounted bats during programs).
- Museum Collection
- Biomonitoring projects (general community surveys independent of any permitting process)
- Educational/ Class Exercise
- Only Missouri Wildlife Collector’s Permittee’s that have the following approved “Collection Purposes” are permitted to occur during this time.
- Salvage Only Collection (note: *no live specimens may be pursued or taken)
- Other, which includes all Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) cave monitoring and mapping projects by permitted individuals. (A surgical mask must be worn while in the cave in addition to following WNS decontamination protocols)
- Scientific Research where bat capture/handling is critical to meeting research objectives.
- Permittees are encouraged to critically assess potential benefits of their research to species of interest versus the potential risk of human to bat transmission of COVID-19.
- Research that can forgo capturing and handling of bats should use other methods such as bat acoustic detectors to answer questions related to species presence, etc.
- Environmental Assessment Projects
- Permittee’s working on these assessments are already involved in consultation with USFWS Missouri Ecological Services’ field office (USFWS field office) and MDC. Whenever possible, these projects should avoid capturing live bats and use acoustic monitoring to assess bat resources within the project area. However, there may be specific projects where it is necessary to conduct limited targeted mist net surveys followed by radio telemetry. This guidance will be provided through the consultation process with USFWS field office and MDC. These approved mist net projects should follow the guidance outlined below to best minimize the risk of human to bat transmission of COVID-19.
Required Protocols for Bat Handling During Scientific Research and Environmental Assessment
Approved projects must follow the guidance below and follow the guidance of any relevant federal permit to contact the USFWS field office (101 Park Deville Drive, Suite A, Columbia, Missouri 65203-0007; Phone 573-234-2132 Ext. 100) for additional site approval prior to any fieldwork.
- Limit the number of people who interact with or handle the bat. This should be done by the following:
- Limit mist net teams to only necessary personnel for running the site safely for both humans and bats. Maximum number of people at a site should be 3 (2 handlers and 1 recorder).
- Maintain social distancing during mist net surveys.
- The handler who removes the bat from the mist net is the person who processes the bat.
- Only the permit holder and 1 experienced, but non-permitted person should come into contact with bats.
- Anyone who is feeling ill will not work.
- Limit the number of animals processed or captured.
- Close nets as soon as the required number and/or species are captured or the amount of time required by the relevant protocol is met.
- Release non-targeted species immediately upon removal from the mist net. Record the following data on the datasheet: Date, Capture Time, Species, Sex, and Reproductive Condition for these non-targeted species.
- Everyone at the mist net site must adhere to the following guidelines for decontamination and PPE to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 from humans to bats as well as fungal spores that cause white-nose syndrome (WNS).
- Cloth face masks and vented N-95 masks are not acceptable PPE to prevent exposing a bat to potential infection.
- Follow the most current WNS decontamination protocols issued by USFWS for cleaning gear (i.e., mist nets, clothing, other trapping equipment) and cleaning processing tools between each bat using approved WNS cleaning materials (i.e., Clorox wipes, isopropyl, etc.).
- Clean coveralls or clothing with long sleeves prior to beginning work.
- Surgical mask (N-95 mask without a vent can be used if available but only if fit tested and part of a respiratory protection program. Many N-95 masks have a vent which allows particles out during exhalation. So, these masks protect the wearer but not an animal being handled by the wearer.)
- Face shield or double surgical mask. A properly fitted N-95 mask without a vent can be worn without a face shield or second mask.
- Nitrile or latex gloves over handling gloves.
How to Use PPE
- Identify and gather the proper PPE to don. (Gloves, coveralls or surgical gown, face shield, surgical mask).
- Perform hand hygiene using hand sanitizer with greater than 60% alcohol.
- Put on body coverings.
- Put on surgical face mask. Cloth face masks and vented N-95 masks are not PPE.
- Tie the top tie first and the base of the neck second. If it has loops, hook around ears.
- Do not store the mask below your face between animals, or in your pocket.
- Change facemasks if they become soiled, damp or hard to breathe through
- Perform hand hygiene immediately before and after any contact with the facemask.
- Put on a face shield or second surgical mask.
- Put on gloves that cover the cuff of your garment. Double gloving is recommended.
- Change outer gloves between bats.
- Remove PPE and bag for cleaning or disposal before entering vehicle at the end of trapping.
Chen, H.2020. Susceptibility of ferrets, cats, dogs, and different domestic animals to SARS- coronavirus-2. BioRxiv. Preliminary report. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.30.015347