Our battles to move bats ‘a waste of time’
MORE than a million flying foxes could be heading for the Sunshine Coast and we are virtually powerless to stop them.
Expensive attempts to disperse colonies on the Coast appear to have limited success, with the animals eventually returning to their roosts.
The Somerset Council issued a statement last week saying a colony of about a million animals that had been causing problems in Kilcoy appeared to be leaving the area in search of more food.
Another colony of 500,000 at nearby Linville was also on the move.
Recognised flying fox expert Dr Les Hall said he'd "almost bet on it" that the colonies were on their way to the Coast.
"Based on previous observations, it is likely those flying foxes will move to the Coast to the flowering pink bloodwoods. I'll almost bet on it," he said.
The Sunshine Coast Council warned on January 15 a species called the little red flying fox was already increasing in numbers.
"It has been indicated that due to the drought conditions in western Queensland and subsequent scarcity of food resources, more little reds will head to food-rich coastal areas such as the Sunshine Coast," Councillor Steve Robinson said.
Dr Hall said attempts to move them were a "waste of time".
"The council spent around $250,000 trying to move them on, but they moved up the road and then went back to their original place.
"They will go back to their food source."
He sympathised with people who had a red flying fox colony move next to them though as they were noisier than the black or grey varieties.
His advice was to "take a holiday" as they normally moved on in about six weeks, once the food source was depleted.
Is it time we learnt to live with flying foxes?
This poll ended on 07 February 2016.
It must be, if they're not going anywhere.
No. There must be a way to get rid of them.
If they're staying then I'm leaving.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
He stressed flying foxes, whether they were red, black or grey, played a crucial role in the environment.
And while they might be noisy and leave a horrid stench, the risk of physical danger was very small.
"There is a very, very low prevalence of either of the two diseases associated with flying foxes. That is Australia Bat Lyssavirus or the Hendra virus," Dr Hall said.
"CSIRO has thoroughly tested infected flying foxes to Hendra and they couldn't directly transfer to an animal or horse."
Trying to chase flying foxes away from their food was "like chasing someone away from a food bar".
"They might go a little way if you make enough noise but the whole effort is not worth the trouble," he said.
This wasn't because the little creatures were too stupid to remember why they left. They have high intelligence.
"Their intelligence is up there with dogs. They have really highly developed brains," Dr Hall said.
"They have excellent memories. They are one of the most intelligent of our little animals. While there is food around, you are not going to chase them away."
He said the arrival of flying fox colonies in residential areas was "part of nature".
"Some have floods, others have bushfires, and some have flying fox colonies near their property," he said.
But Division 8 Councillor Jason O'Pray was determined not to let the flying foxes have the final say.
The grey flying fox has been a constant problem for residents near Stella Maris school and the council approved a dispersal plan.
"Then they went away and we never had to use it," Cr O'Pray said.
"But now they are back.
"We're not here to learn to love them. My approach has always been humans first."
His response would be music to the ears of Maroochydore Seventh Day Adventist pastor Steve Ward, whose church in Aragorn St is beside a colony.
"There have been huge numbers, at times up to a thousand," Pastor Ward said. "It's more hygiene than anything. They are very messy and we have had dead bats lying around.
"They are one of the creatures of our country but it would be wonderful if they decided to move up to a forest and out of here."
Dr Hall said a possible solution was to create new food habitats in remote areas.
But the growth of the trees would take 15 years.
The Coast council has budgeted $55,000 for flying fox education and research and $160,000 for active management including possible dispersals this financial year.
- This roost has been occupied continuously since July 2015 by grey-headed flying foxes and black flying foxes.
- There has been a substantial increase in numbers in recent weeks due to the migration of little red flying foxes from north and western Queensland.
- Little red flying foxes are highly migratory and follow the flowering eucalypts throughout Queensland. This species is only a temporary visitor to the Sunshine Coast and should return to their breeding grounds in April.
- Grey-headed flying foxes and black flying foxes were present on January 28 and observed with dependent young.
- Black and grey-headed flying foxes returned to this roost in early November 2015.
- Substantial numbers of little red flying foxes returned in early January 2016.
- Council officers conducted an inspection of this roost on January 28 and no little red flying foxes were observed. Both black and grey-headed flying foxes were present and were observed with dependent young.