Bats in Snowmass Village become public health concern | AspenTimes.com

Bats in Snowmass Village become public health concern

Bat colonies have become an issue in Snowmass Village, where they have found ways to get inside the units at the Snowmass Villas condominium complex.

Thousand of bats have been colonizing in Snowmass Village over the years, with a recent incident at a townhome complex capturing the attention of local and state health officials.

One morning in August, Nick DiMeglio and his wife, who live at Snowmass Villas, better known as "The Blue Roofs," woke up and noticed a bat in their room.

"Their teeth are so small that you don't know if you've been bitten," DiMeglio said.

DiMeglio and his wife underwent post-prophylaxis for rabies because they had been exposed to the flying mammal. They weren't bitten, but the incident cast the spotlight on a bat issue that isn't restricted to just The Blue Roofs but much of Snowmass Village.

"We'll be talking about it," Snowmass Village Mayor Markey Butler said at a work session Tuesday among Pitkin County commissioners and health officials.

A week before the couple spotted the bat in their home, Pitkin County positively tested its first bat for rabies in more than 20 years, officials said. Rabies is a fatal viral disease that is mostly transmitted through animal bites, but it also can be picked up if an animal's saliva goes into a person's eyes, nose, mouth or a wound, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also notes that rabies among bats is rare, and one can't tell if a bat has the disease simply by looking at it. But if a bat is active during the day or seen in places it generally doesn't inhabit — in other words, behaving out of character — it could be rabid.

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Health officials briefed commissioners about the bat issue as part of their quarterly update with elected officials.

The migratory bats typically have made Snowmass their home from August into September or October over the years, noted Liz Stark, the county's public health director.

"There are literally thousands and thousands of bats that would come every year" to The Blue Roofs, she told commissioners.

But at The Blue Roofs, the bats have found ways to get inside units. DiMeglio said the homeowners association has been receptive to making a change to the complex's structural issues, but the process has been sluggish.

DiMeglio said he suggested new siding to the six-building, 26-condominium complex, which is located off of Brush Creek Road.

"They put some netting on our unit," he said. "So I did get some comfort in that."

Dan Bosko, president of the board, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Health officials, including the state public health veterinarian, spoke to Blue Roof homeowners at a meeting in August, Stark said. "We don't want to eliminate them (bats) completely," Stark said. "We just don't want them going into homes."

While bats technically aren't rodents, DiMeglio said, "They're flying rats and your house can smell from them."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com