Beware of the bats. That's the message that local governments are sending to the Hudson Valley area.

As we transition from summer to fall, county agencies are warning residents about the threat of bats. Homeowners are being advised to remain vigilant to protect themselves from invasion and disease.

The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health says that the bat population of the Hudson Valley increases rapidly this time of year. Baby bats are now out in the wild and looking to get into your home.

This year the DBCH has already investigated 86 reports of potential bat exposures to people or domestic animals. While bats aren't aggressive, the animals can very easily come in contact with humans or pets if they make their way inside a home. Because many bats are infected with rabies, it's important to avoid the potential for a bat to spread the disease to household members.

It's actually the small size of the bats that make them such a nuisance. The winged creatures can easily squeeze into gaps of just a half-inch. It's important to remember this when removing air conditioning units for the winter and opening up chimney dampers. You may be letting a bat into your home without even realizing it.

If you do come in contact with a bat, it's important to capture it and bring it to a lab for testing. The DBCH has helpful tips on capturing a bat and determining if it has rabies on their website.

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