Flying-foxes

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Flying foxes are considered the most important animal for the survival of our eucalypt and rainforest ecosystems. There are three species found in our region, and the largest colony is found at Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve. There are safety measures you can take to ensure you and your pets are kept safe if there’s a flying fox in your yard.

The importance of flying foxes

Flying Foxes spread pollen and disperse seeds, and this process is crucial to the survival of Australia’s eucalypt and rainforest ecosystems. A single flying fox can disperse up to 60,000 seeds in one night. This process helps ensure the health of our native trees and forests, and many species of fruit-bearing trees.

Flying foxes in our region

The largest population of flying foxes in our region can be found at the Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve, where numbers can reach up to 20,000 during both autumn and spring and grow to 100,000 in summer. We manage this reserve to protect the welfare of the flying foxes and minimise the impact on nearby residents.  Population counts occur quarterly as part of a National Census and extra counts are done throughout the year when camp numbers are noticeably changing.

 

Protecting flying-foxes in our area

Flying fox numbers have decreased due to loss of habitat and changing climate. The Grey-Headed Flying Fox is now classified as vulnerable to extinction under state and federal legislation, with an estimated decline of more than 30 percent over the last three generations.

Flying foxes are protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act.

We help protect these valuable species through activities such as:

  • Routine camp management such as bush regeneration
  • Education and awareness such as interpretative signage, fact sheets and community updates
  • Investigation of alternative habitat
  • Canopy-mounted sprinklers
  • Buffers through vegetation trimming and removal
  • Research through continued flying-fox census data collection

The Friends of Kooloonbung Creek are a volunteer group who help look after the reserve with support from us. They help to:

  • Keep the area clear of litter and dumped rubbish
  • Clear trees off the pathways
  • Remove weeds
  • Repair vandalism

These volunteers assisted with planting 150 Broadleaf Paperbark trees in 2020 to help with the regeneration of defoliated trees. 

Flying-fox species in our region

There are three types of flying foxes found in our region:

  • Black Flying Fox
    These are found throughout coastal areas from Western Australia across the top of Australia and down into Queensland and NSW. They are a nomadic species which means they travel in response to climate and the seasonal availability of their preferred food plants. They usually feed within 20 kilometres of their camp, and prefer warm, moist habitats near a creek or river.
    Breeding season: March to April/May.
    Babies born: September to October


  • Grey-Headed Flying Fox
    This is one of the largest bats in the world and is only found in Australia. They are classified as a vulnerable species under state and commonwealth legislation. They are found across eastern Australian from Mackay to Melbourne, as well as South Australia – and have even been observed in Tasmania. They stick within 200 kilometres of the coast. They have been found within rainforests, open forests, woodlands, and urban and agricultural areas and can travel up to 100 kilometres in a single night – or 500 kilometres within 48 hours when moving camp. They’ve been known to raid orchards when food is scarce. Koloobung Creek is a maternity site for these flying foxes.
    Breeding season: January to March, sometimes into April/May.
    Babies born: October to December.


  • Little Red Flying Fox
    These flying foxes are widely distributed across northern and eastern Australia. They forage almost exclusively on nectar and pollen, only occasionally eating fruit.  These flying foxes travel more frequently than other species due to the limited availability of food, so their stay in one place is often short. They form large camps for mating, which can include up to 100,000 flying foxes.
    Breeding season: November to January, however this species is not known to breed locally.
    Babies born: April to May.

Living near flying-foxes

Flying foxes in your backyard:

  • Flying foxes may feed on backyard trees at night.
  • You can discourage by removing any flowers, seeds and fruit from the trees in your yard.
  • Keep pets indoors overnight for their protection, and to protect flying foxes.
  • Trees are protected and cannot be removed without council approval.

Sickness from flying foxes:

  • Lyssavirus can be spread to animals and humans through the bite or scratch of a flying fax. It can’t be spread through urine or droppings.
  • Pets should be kept away from flying foxes.
  • It’s best not to touch flying fox droppings as there is a small risk of gastrointestinal diseases.
  • If you’re bitten of scratched by a flying fox, clean and disinfect the wound and see your doctor.

Noise from flying foxes:

  • Flying foxes use noise to communicate.
  • Periods of noise occur mainly at dawn and dusk.
  • There can be some additional daytime noise during mating seasons or if people walk through a flying fox camp.

Smell from flying foxes:

  • Flying foxes have unique odours to help them identify one another.
  • Flying fox odour is not harmful to human health, but can be unpleasant, particularly during mating season.

If you find a sick, injured or dead flying fox:

  • For a sick or injured flying fox, avoid touching it and call FAWNA on 6581 4141. This is a 24 hour hotline.
  • If the animal is dead, wear protective clothing and use a shovel to place the animal in a garbage bag. Dispose of the bag at your local waste facility. Disinfect all equipment and wash clothing in hot water.
  • If you find a dead flying fox in the Kooloonbung Reserve, please contact us and avoid touching it.

 

Concerns and enquiries

If you have any concerns about flying foxes, please contact us on 6581 8111 or email council@pmhc.nsw.gov.au