Flying foxes reported dead in unusually high numbers

Flying foxes have been dropping their pups or dying from starvation in unusually high numbers on the Far South Coast. 

On Friday, 29 grey-headed flying fox pups were found dead at Glebe Lagoon in Bega, according to coordinator of monthly flying fox counting activities with Friends of Glebe Wetland Hugh Pitty.

While this was an unusually high number, he said there were similar reports of numerous deaths coming from across NSW and into South East Queensland. 

“[Friday] was a hot afternoon and heat stress is a factor,” Mr Pitty said. 

“But the food shortages are widespread.”

Chairwoman of WIRES Far South East Kim Stafford said the flying foxes’ situation was “really bad” this year.

“Since November 2 we’ve had 18 calls for flying foxes in need, which is massive compared to other years,” she said. 

She said eucalypts – the animals’ natural food source – were not flowering this year. The last time they did not flower was in 2010.

Combined with an expanding human population and deforestation she said this lack of food was pushing flying foxes into people’s backyards because they were starving. 

This led to another problem, as if gardeners use cheap netting over their orchards, flying foxes can become tangled – on Sunday Ms Stafford was called out to help four of the animals stuck in one fruit net. 

Also, as the animals were starving, some parents have dropped their pups because they could not even feed themselves. 

While abandoned pups and injured adults have been reported to WIRES, only six volunteers have the required vaccinations to care for the animals.

This was the lowest number the group had seen in a long time and Ms Stafford said it was simply not enough with such a huge workload.

Pups, for example, need to be bottle-fed day and night for around six months. 

Mr Pitty said while 9050 flying foxes were counted at Glebe Lagoon on Friday and this was three times the number seen there in October, it was important to understand the population was seasonal. 

“It is just the local camp of the whole population that flies around following the food source,” he said.

“While some will return having been there before, others will never have stopped there.”

He said the flying foxes’ patterns of dispersal was scattered, which meant they were flying out in different directions to find food and was usually something seen at the end of a season when food was scarce. 

If you see an injured flying fox, do not touch it to avoid becoming infected with a virus and instead call WIRES on 1300 094 737. To join WIRES call 8977 3392 or email training@wires.org.au. 

This story Bats falling from the sky first appeared on Bega District News.