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Threats


Bats are becoming increasingly common in the urban environment, where they encounter many man-made hazards. You can help protect this important species by removing hazards, and make a positive difference by planting native trees and bushes that will provide food for bats and other native wildlife.


Shooting

Bbay Flying Fox orphan

Shooting flying-foxes for orchard protection is inhumane and ineffectual, it’s shamefully cruel.

On Threatened Species Day, the 7th of September 2012, the Queensland Government reinstated damage mitigation permits (DMP’s) to shoot flying-foxes for crop protection. Two of the four main species are threatened with extinction, the Grey-headed flying-fox and the Spectacled flying-fox. All flying-foxes are protected species and it is illegal to shoot flying-foxes without a DMP. An independent investigation by the Queensland Animal Welfare Advisory Committee found shooting flying-foxes to be inhumane. As a dark moving object at night it is impossible to kill flying-foxes humanely. Only 8% are killed outright while the majority are left to die painful slow deaths from their injuries. Worse still, it is the time of year when females are pregnant or mothers are carrying small babies or babies are left at the colony. These young suffer a slow cruel death if their mothers are shot. Shooting has never deterred predation of open orchards and it never will.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

pdfRead Fact and Fable, Flying-foxes and Fruit Crops (370KB)

pdfRead the report Why NSW Should Ban the Shooting of Flying-foxes endorsed by 55 conservation, animal welfare and wildlife rescue organisations (1MB)

pdfRead the Report on deaths and injuries to Grey-headed Flying-foxes, Pteropus poliocephalus shot in an orchard near Sydney, NSW revealing evidence of extreme cruelty to shot flying-foxes (900KB)

pdfRead statements of support from fruit growers opposed to shooting (140KB)

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Electrocution

Flying-foxes have a large wingspan (over 1 metre), but they are also excellent climbers using the clawed thumbs on the wrists of their wings. They will generally climb to move about in a tree once they have landed.

Unfortunately this gets them into trouble on overhead power lines. To a tired bat, the power lines look like a nice open branch to rest on. Usually they will be electrocuted when they reach for the next "branch".

Electrocuted flying fox on powerlines

During October to December it is often the female bats that stop to rest on the power lines, because they are either carrying their baby (extra weight) or tired from having to look after two.

If you see a bat hanging on a powerline by itself during the day, it is either seriously injured or dead. In either case, please always be on the lookout for a baby as they often survive the electrocution and can live for up to four days clinging to their mother. If there are any signs of life for the adult and/or baby, please call the rescue line immediately, and note the street address and if possible the power pole numbers.

Electrocuted bat

Energex do a wonderful job of assisting bat carers to retrieve bats from power lines, and many orphans have been named after the brave Energex worker who helped save them.

If an injured adult or orphan is left on the lines, it will often attract other bats. The following photograph shows a row of dead bats which collected after one survived being electrocuted.

This following story and photographs from one of our members is just one of many, unfortunately.

According to the caller who reported it, this bat hung on the lines all day Saturday after being electrocuted the night before. The electricity had blown off both of his wrists and forearms but because the wounds were cauterised he wasn’t going to bleed to death. It was stormy on Saturday night and at some stage the poor thing was knocked to the ground. Still alive, he managed to climb (don’t know how) into a bush and was hanging about knee height when I arrived. Luckily there was a vaccinated vet in the area willing to euthanase him. Poor boy put up a fight, was gassed down thankfully, then his suffering was ended.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

pdfBats and electrocution

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Dispersals

Dispersals are an action to remove flying foxes from an existing roosting habitat and can go as far as the destruction of that roosting vegetation. A campsite is an important refuge for daytime resting for up to 12 hours per day after flying many hours in search of nightly food. It’s a place where young are born and nurtured until strong enough to be able to fly out to forage with adults. It’s also where a lot of communication takes place between mothers and young, socialising teenagers, mating adults and males squabbling over territories. A campsite can be temporary or it can be permanent. Some are only occupied for short periods when flowering maybe abundant, we call these camps. While other roosts that are permanently occupied all year round and may have been there for many hundreds of years, we call these colonies. Campsites are the most important refuge for the lives of bats and this is where flying-foxes call home. Even so they do not have fidelity to one particular site but move in relation to food and breeding cycles. An adult flying-fox my visit campsites many hundreds of kilometres apart and all of the ones in between.

A flying-foxes main motivation for staying in urban areas is the availability to easy food resources and the safety of camp sites due to the fact that people are unable to discharge firearms in built up areas. The dispersal of flying-foxes is only now being used as a management tool. What long term effects they have on breeding status and disease prevalence is still largely unknown. We do know that dispersals rarely work over time and are more likely to move the bats to become someone else’s problem. Dispersal action will then no doubt be repeated, perhaps many times.

Bat colony in flight

Dispersals can take many forms. It can mean total destruction of roost trees or it could be smoke that drives them away. Excessively loud noises such as air raid sirens, chain saws without blades, lawn mowers without mufflers even police car light and sirens have been used. One town used freezing cold high pressure water cannons and paint ball pellets in winter. Stock whips, bird fright and even helicopters and crop duster planes. Vegetation ‘modification’ is the new favourite dispersal method involving the removing all understory plants. The same plants other animals call their home, understory plants are utilised by many bird and animal species including wrens and finches, lizards and small mammals, some may themselves be threatened species.

Flying-foxes now find themselves embroiled in politically motivated dispersal actions which are virally spreading wherever flying-foxes make their home across the State of Qld. (June 2013) No campsite will find itself immune from this now hostile and ill-conceived new management strategy. It would be far wiser and cheaper to double glaze windows and install air conditioners, educate communities to co-exist with flying-foxes, to educate about the low disease risk and to manage flying-fox campsites with known scientific knowledge and good conservation strategies.

Dispersing a flying-fox colony will be risky business as their movements are unpredictable. As free flying mammals they cannot be herded or directed to what we humans think would be a more desirable site. It is highly likely that they will move to a less desirable site where they will be even more difficult to manage and potentially increase the human wildlife interactions and conflict.

Two of the four flying-foxes in Qld, the Grey-headed flying-fox and the Spectacled flying-fox are nationally threatened. Manmade causes such as legal and illegal shooting at orchards, land clearing, roost habitat destruction and ongoing harassment take their toll. Other factors such as heat stress and prolonged drought or prolonged wet and unpredictable forest flowering causing starvation events that are in some cases wiping out entire generations of young or old. All of these causes are now witness to plummeting populations of flying-foxes which will have serious consequences for their health and wellbeing. On top of all of this, bats will now face legalised colony destruction – in the guise of dispersals.

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Barbed Wire

Bat trapped in barbed-wire

Every year barbed-wire is responsible for thousands of cruel injuries with slow and painful deaths to bats, gliders, macropods and nocturnal birds.

In urban environments barbedwire is still being erected along railway lines, in car parks and industrial estates and much of it is being planted with wildlife attracting native plants. Barbed-wire is erected as a human deterrent and our nocturnal wildlife are rarely considered. These fences are a constant death trap and every year thousands of animals are caught and suffer horrid deaths or face months of rehabilitation with wildlife organizations. The reporting of wildlife caught on barbed-wire fencing is increasing across Brisbane and it is time to make changes to limit this horrific cruel killer of animals. It is illegal to knowingly catch protected wildlife on barbed-wire yet the law is never enacted.

DO:

DON'T:

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

pdfRead the Fact Sheet about bats and barbed-wire

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Netting

Flying fox caught in netting

Fruit ripening season coinsides with Flying-fox birthing season. As flying-foxes give birth to only one young each year they therefore have a very low birth rate. It’s at this time of year mothers carrying small babies are often injured in backyard fruit tree netting. Mother bats are hungry trying to sustain themselves as well as feed their growing baby. Many people want to protect their fruit from birds, rats and bats but are unaware of the dangers to wildlife when using netting. Unfortunately we see too many cruel deaths to mothers and to baby bats during this time.

Did you know flying-foxes fly by vision, not by ultrasound? They have excellent eyesight in the dark, but netting is usually dark in colour and so fine that flying-foxes cannot see it. Even if they do they will often take risks to find food just to survive. Bats are attracted to a tree by the smell of fruit but when they land on the netting they become hopelessly entangled by it.

Baby bat caught in netting

The photo to the left shows a mother flying-fox with her baby (highlighted in pink – its head indicated by an arrow).

There are alternatives to using netting:

Please note, CDs hung from fishing line do not work and are more likely to entangle wildlife.

This is the product that commercial growers use. It's called "Hailguard" it is inexpensive and it may also help limit insect pests. It has proven effective with no harm to bats, possums, birds or snakes. It is approximately 15-18% shade so will still allow fruit to ripen. It comes 6m wide and will not fray when cut. Zip tie to a frame or cut it to be folded over fruiting branches. Make sure it is pegged to the ground as flying-foxes are smart and may climb up from the bottom. It is UV safe for around 10 years so just fold it way after use.

Buy it from Fernland Agencies, they are happy to post anywhere in Australia. Call (07) 5454 8800, fax (07) 5472 8483 or email: sales@fernland.com.au

If you see a flying-fox trapped in netting, please call us as soon as possible – the longer it is in the netting, the more damage it is taking due to blood deprivation, swelling, dehydration and mouth injuries from trying to free itself, not to mention possible bird attacks. Do not try to remove the flying-fox from the netting yourself, it will likely try to bite and scratch.

Bats are a protected species and need our help, plant winter flowering or fruiting trees to help them survive.

Several large and successful hardware chains and a major discount store, sell drape netting and they are fully aware that it kills Australian wildlife. They have a small warning but it is still killing our wildlife – they continue to stock it knowing this. People who purchase the netting, purchase it unaware of the dangers to our wildlife. These hardware stores are not good corporate citizens! When next visiting their stores please tell the managers not to stock it and please fill in a customer feed back form and alert them to their responsibility.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Drape Net: An inexpensive alternative to protect fruit without harming wildlife

pdfMore safe alternatives to netting

pdfNative food for wildlife

pdfAbout garden fruit trees and wildlife

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Habitat Destruction

Cocos palms are poison to bats

If you have the room please plant small gum trees, lilly pilly and figs. Never plant native plants near barbed wire, plant native palms over exotics. Please note Cocos or queen palms are poisonous and deadly to wildlife so remove them and replant natives. If you plant natives your garden will come alive with animals, birds and insects.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

pdfRead more about what to plant to attract wildlife and help keep bats healthy and happy.

pdfRead more about the dangers associated with cocos palms.

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