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Co-existing with bats and flying foxes

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bats, or flying foxes, are a protected species in Australia. By nature, they avoid human contact, pose very little threat to our lifestyle and without them our forests would not exist. Whether we like it or not, they are sometimes a feature of our community, but rarely a permanent one.

“For most of the year, we hear very little about bats unless they upset someone in a residential area while feeding at night,” says Justin McKee, spokesperson for WIRES.

“Most Councils in NSW promote learning to co-exist alongside bats for a good reason. Attempts to move them along often prove to create larger problems than the initial ‘perceived’ ones.

“Bats will tend to roost in a stand of tall trees near water. When they are moved, the colony will typically either shift to the next nearest stand of large trees or splinter off into two groups. Both may result in the bats moving closer to more people.

"It's important that people are aware that it is both unsafe and against the law for an untrained person to handle a bat. If you come across a bat that needs help, phone WIRES on 1300 094 737.

"During breeding season each year, trained carers will handle hundreds of bat pups that become orphaned, or sick. Bats are the only species that bond with their human carer and this bonding is critical for the first 10 weeks of their life. After this, they go on to develop social skills and mix with others their own age.

“The only risk to humans that we know of comes when someone is bitten or scratched. These cases are extremely rare. Bats by nature are shy and are unlikely to approach people.

“One of the highest concentrations of bats in NSW occurs in Sydney where over 4 million people harmoniously co-exist with bats year in, year out.

“Bats are rarely permanent features of any community. They are present, when local trees are fruiting and flowers are blossoming. When the food source disappears, they move on.” says Mr McKee

Bats are a keystone species in Australia. They fly long distances each night dispersing the seeds that keep the gene pool of our rainforests, forest and bushland diverse and thriving. Flying foxes are also the main nocturnal pollinator of our eucalyptus forests helping the survival of the trees that feed iconic animals like the koala.

While it is illegal for residents to make attempts to shift bats along, those that find them a bother can take some practical steps towards deterring the bats from eating from their gardens:

  • When possible, cut off the fruit on trees or palms before it has time to ripen
  • Cover your trees with wildlife friendly netting. This type of netting can be purchased at major stores like Bunnings. If you can stick your little finger through the holes though, it's not the wildlife friendly netting.

While it is not possible to get Australian Bat Lyssavirus from simply touching bat droppings, like handing any faecal matter, it is advisable to wear gloves if you are cleaning up and avoid all contact with your eyes and mouth until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly afterwards.

WIRES advises that where possible, people should avoid parking cars under trees that animals feed from. While bat droppings wash off easily and are not very acidic, the droppings of the many other animals that eat fruit and flowers may not be so kind to cars.

To donate to WIRES to help it continue to provide its rescue service free to the community go to www.wires.org.au

Media Contact: Carla Toyne (02) 8977 3327
Media Email: media@wires.org.au