Flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley

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Clarence Valley Council are working to protect flying-foxes and their habitat and prevent negative interactions with flying-foxes in core habitats. To do this, we are developing a flying-fox management plan and communications strategy for the Clarence Valley, as well as working on habitat regeneration and revegetation in flying-fox habitats to increase buffers.

Clarence Valley Council are working to protect flying-foxes and their habitat and prevent negative interactions with flying-foxes in core habitats. To do this, we are developing a flying-fox management plan and communications strategy for the Clarence Valley, as well as working on habitat regeneration and revegetation in flying-fox habitats to increase buffers.

  • The survey results are in!

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    22 Apr 2020
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    Clarence Valley Council is working to protect flying-foxes and their habitat as well as prevent negative interactions with flying-foxes through a Local Government NSW-funded project ‘Maclean Flying-fox Management’. We are developing the Clarence Valley Council Flying-fox Management Plan. One aspect of the plan development is to decide which flying-fox camp management actions would be best suited for residents that are most affected. To gauge the opinions of community on the matter, we asked the public to complete a Flying-fox Camp Management Consultation Survey.

    The survey was available on Flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley from the 9th of January 2020 to the 2nd of March 2020. During this consultation period the survey received 75 valid submissions.

    Impacts

    With 75 valid submissions, respondents felt that smell, faecal drop, noise and fear of disease were the most concerning impacts from flying-foxes. The respondents favoured flying-fox camp management measures that do not harm flying-foxes and provide a long-term solution, as well as not degrading the ecological values of the site and ensuring that disease transmission remains low.

    Management Options

    Based on the cumulative preference totals of the top five options of all respondents, revegetation for alternative habitat, and education/ awareness programs ranked highest as the most preferred management options. Research, early dispersal, active nudging, and active dispersal through disturbance were ranked equal third and fourth as preferred management options. This is supported by the finding that the majority of respondents that lived in close proximity of a camp were aware of the flying-fox camp prior to moving in. For a priority action, revegetation for alternative habitat ranked the highest, with education/ awareness programs and active dispersal through disturbance ranking second and third. Level 1 actions were ranked the highest of the priority actions, followed by level 3 actions.

    Culling flying-foxes (an illegal activity) was the most preferred management option by several respondents, ranking 5th overall; with passive dispersal, protocols, artificial roosting habitat, subsidies and advising of property modification without subsidies attracting no priority preferences; and artificial roosting habitat attracting no cumulative preferences.

    Subsidies

    Subsidising property modifications or subsidising services were not priority management options for the respondents, but was selected when allowed up to five preferred options. Based on the cumulative preference totals of the top five options of all respondents, covering commonly used areas, vehicle covers, and double-glazing of windows ranked highest as the most preferred subsidy options. For a priority subsidy option, covering commonly used areas ranked the highest, with rainwater first-flush diverters and air conditioners ranking second and third.

    Interactions with Flying-foxes

    The majority of respondents experienced the camp as flying-foxes flew over their residence, business or child’s school and felt extremely positive towards them. Of those that were not directly affected by the flying-foxes, respondents enjoyed visiting them. Respondents that were not directly affected by a camp felt overall extremely positive about flying-foxes, while those that were directly affected by a camp felt overall extremely negative about flying-foxes. Of the respondents that were directly affected by a camp, active dispersal through disturbance was the highest ranked priority management action, while revegetation and management of land for alternative habitat was the highest ranked priority management action for those that were not directly affected.


    For more information, DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT showing all survey results.

    Stay tuned for the one-page infographic summarising the results.

  • Protecting fruit with wildlife-friendly netting

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    26 Mar 2020
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    The use of netting to protect fruit is a great way to reduce the impact of wildlife on crop loss; however we need to ensure that hungry animals do not become entangled.

    IMPACTS ON WILDLIFE

    All kinds of animals can get caught in improper fruit netting, including flying-foxes, birds, and reptiles. Mesh netting with wide spacing can entangle the feet or wings of animals. When animals are caught they may struggle to escape; which can result in the animal becoming stressed, developing wounds from the mesh, or event death of the individual.

    APPROPRIATE NET DISPOSAL

    Unwanted netting can even harm wildlife once discarded. Ensure you dispose of netting in a manner that will not allow it to become a hazard.

    WILDLIFE-FRIENDLY NETTING

    There are several ways that you can install wildlife-friendly netting to your fruit trees, with varying levels of cover. Wildlife-friendly nets can also help to exclude fruit fly and other insects.

    Cover Individual Fruit: If you have a fruit tree that produces bunches of fruit, or a few miscellaneous larger fruits, you could consider using fruit protection bags. These can be purchased in bulk and are an economical way to be selective about fruit protection. You could even use this method to leave some fruit uncovered for the wildlife to feed on if you have an excess supply.

    Cover a Whole Tree: Large box-shaped nets with a fine 2 mm woven mesh are available that can be used to cover a large shrub or small tree. Boxed nets have a skirt that should gather around the trunk of the tree to prevent animals accessing the fruit from below. Most nets do not need a frame to support them, as they are light but If you have a larger fruit tree, a supporting frame can be constructed with Polypipe or wooden posts. Consider how you will access the protected tree once covered (some nets have built-in access flaps).

    Cover a Whole Garden: Mesh netting on a roll can be used to cover a custom-built frame and protect a large area, such as a garden bed. This is a good option if you have many small shrubs that you would like to protect.

    CHOOSE THE RIGHT NETTING

    Wildlife-friendly netting will have densely-woven fibres, with a spacing that does not allow a finger to poke through. Most recommended brands have a woven mesh net with 2 mm spacing, but any net with spacing of less than 1 cm is suitable. Nylon monofilament netting or other bird netting should be avoided, as these are commonly the cause of wildlife entanglements. White coloured netting is best as it has a high reflectance and white it is the most visible colour at night, helping to prevent nocturnal pollinators from becoming trapped. Appropriate mesh can be purchased in rolls of netting that can be adapted to your needs, in large boxed covers for use on small fruit trees/ shrubs, or smaller mesh bags that can be used to cover individual bunches of fruit.

    NET CARE

    • Remember to remove nets after fruiting has completed so that new growth and further flowering is not restricted.
    • Prune your tree to promote a bushy shape and prevent exposed branches from damaging netting.
    • Check your nets regularly (preferably twice daily) to ensure that no wildlife has become inadvertently trapped.

    SICK, INJURED OR ORPHANED WILDLIFE

    If you suspect an animal needs help, please contact WIRES on 1300 094 737. Experienced and trained handlers will advise what should be done to help the animal. Please do not attempt to handle the animal yourself, as some animals may bite or scratch when stressed, and may carry diseases.


    DOWNLOAD THE FULL PAMPHLET


  • Flying-foxes in your backyard

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    20 Feb 2020
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    Flying-foxes are increasingly moving into urban areas in search of food and shelter, due to the loss of their natural habitat. This can sometimes cause conflict between flying-foxes and local residents, because of concerns about health and amenity impacts. When flying-foxes are present in large numbers, their noise and smell can be a nuisance for residents.

    There are some simple measures that the community can take to minimise conflict when they are living close to a flying-fox camp:

    • Don’t disturb the flying-foxes as this causes them to become stressed, in turn resulting in squabbling and associated noise. They are quietest when left alone.
    • Flying-foxes roost in tall vegetation and so may be deterred by trimming and removing branches from around houses or public buildings (subject to approval from the NSW Government if flying-foxes are present).
    • Plant low vegetation (shrubs) to act as a buffer, providing a screen between your residence and the flying-foxes.
    • Create additional habitat by planting food trees preferred by flying-foxes away from houses and orchards.
    • Install properly constructed netting to protect fruit crops.

    Download the Flying-foxes in Your Backyard information pamphlet for more information.

  • We've launched a stories tool

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    29 Jan 2020
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    When we launched the Flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley engagement page, we included a flying-fox camp monitor. This is a great way for people to keep us informed of new camps that establish in the Clarence. However, there are many ways that you can participate in the program!

    Perhaps you have you observed a change to an existing flying-fox camp, have knowledge about camp shifts and history in the Clarence Valley or other miscellaneous information. Alternatively, you have had an experience with flying-foxes that you would like to share with us. We want to hear from you!

    Tell us your story. You're welcome to submit a story about anything that you think might be relevant or important for us to know.

  • Do you have dead bats in your yard?

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    21 Jan 2020
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    Heat stress events and prolonged food shortages can result in poor health in flying-foxes. In some cases, individuals may not survive. We have recently received requests for information on what to do if a flying-fox is found deceased in a residential yard.

    To ensure that you, your family, and pets stay safe and healthy, it is recommended that you:


    • Wear protective clothing such as boots, gloves, long-sleeve shirt, and protective glasses
    • Use tools such as a garbage bag, tongs, shovel and a lined garbage bin or bucket
    • Do not touch the flying-fox, as some individuals carry diseases.
    • Take care not to accidentally scratch yourself from sharp body parts of the deceased animal, or come into contact with body fluids.


    1. Gently prod the flying-fox with a tool (shovel or tongs) to check whether the flying-fox is dead or alive. Look for movement and listen for noise.
    2. If the flying-fox is deceased, report the observation to WIRES on 1300 094 737, as the organisation is collating state-wide flying-fox mortality data. If the flying-fox is alive, call WIRES on 1300 094 737 to arrange for a wildlife carer to collect the individual.
    3. Wear protective clothing and use tools to transfer the flying-fox into a garbage bag
    4. Seal the bag and then place it into a lined garbage bin (red bin).
    5. Take care to disinfect and clean all equipment afterwards and wash clothing in a separate hot water wash.


    DOWNLOAD THE CORRECT DISPOSAL OF BATS GUIDE

    If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us for more information.
  • Temporary flying-fox camp in South Grafton

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    15 Jan 2020
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    A flying-fox camp has recently established in South Grafton containing three species of flying-fox; black flying-fox, little red flying-fox and grey-headed flying-fox. Flying-foxes are currently suffering from a food shortage due to drought and wildfire and so these individuals have likely splintered from another permanent camp.

    Clarence Valley Council Natural Resource Management Project Officer, Dr Caragh Heenan says that flying-foxes are increasingly moving into urban areas in search of food and shelter, due to the loss of their natural habitat.

    “This can sometimes cause problems for local residents, because of concerns about health and amenity impacts, with some residents reportedly disturbing the flying-foxes to move them on,” Dr Heenan said.

    “Grey-headed flying-fox are a threatened species, protected under NSW and Australian government legislation, so it is illegal to harm individuals or their camp habitat without necessary approvals. This includes the production of excessive noise, which may result in disturbance of the camp.”

    “Camp disturbance has been shown to be ineffective in dispersing flying-foxes, but rather increased the camp footprint and moved the problem to other urban areas. Management in situ has therefore been proven as the best method of management for community/residents as well as the species.”

    Clarence Valley Council is working with the NSW Government and Local Government New South Wales through a funded project ‘Maclean Flying-fox Management’ to deliver improved outcomes for flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley and help to manage conflict with the bat colonies.

    “We are developing a Flying-fox Management Plan through the project, which includes several actions for urban landholders that live near a flying-fox camp,” Dr Heenan said.

    “In addition, we have launched an engagement webpage called Flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley, aimed at communicating with the public regarding flying-fox camp management.”

    Residents that live near a flying-fox camp are encouraged to contribute towards flying-fox management in the Clarence Valley by completing the Flying-fox Camp Management Consultation Survey.

    “While we are sympathetic to the disturbance flying-foxes may cause in urban areas, the breeding season for grey-headed flying-fox extends to March and individuals may have dependant young, so no management actions that could disturb the flying-foxes are able to be undertaken by Council at this time.”

    “However, previous camp splintering events have only been temporary, so we are expecting that the flying-foxes will move on soon.”

    “In the meantime, there are some simple measures that the community can take to minimise conflict when they are living close to a flying-fox camp, including installing properly constructed netting on your fruit trees to prevent crop loss, install shade structures over clothes lines, and minimise disturbance to camps.”

    If you believe that there has been a compliance issue occurring near the South Grafton flying-fox camp, please direct your report to the NSW Government Environment Line (131 555).

    The Flying-fox Camp Management Consultation Survey is open for submissions until Monday 10th of February 2020. If you require more information or clarification, please contact Caragh Heenan on 02 6643 0200 from the Council’s Natural Resource Management team.
  • What are your views regarding flying-fox camp management? Take our survey!

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    09 Jan 2020
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    Clarence Valley Council is working to protect flying-foxes and their habitat as well as prevent negative interactions with flying-foxes. To do this, we are developing the Clarence Valley Council Flying-fox Management Plan. One aspect of the plan development is to decide which flying-fox camp management actions would be best suited for residents that are most affected.

    Please contribute towards flying-fox management in the Clarence Valley by completing our Flying-fox Camp Management Consultation Survey (https://www.clarenceconversations.com.au/flyingfoxes).

    Hard copies can be obtained on request. Contact us for a print-out, or download a copy.

    The survey closes Monday 10th of February 2020.





  • Flying-foxes fighting for food after bushfires

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    23 Sep 2019
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    Residents in the Clarence Valley and greater north coast New South Wales may notice some unusual behaviour occurring among the flying-fox (fruit bat) population at the moment. The flying-foxes have been observed flying around during the day, roosting in tree species that they would normally not inhabit, particularly in urban backyard fruit trees, and many are falling out of trees or dying in situ. Some individuals are refusing to return to their colony and are rather staying nearby a food resource to protect it. The unusual behaviour is linked to malnourished bats undergoing starvation.

    Clarence Valley Council is working with the NSW Government and Local Government New South Wales through a funded project ‘Maclean Flying-fox Management’ to deliver improved outcomes for flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley and help to manage conflict with the bat colonies. Natural Resource Management Project Officer, Dr Caragh Heenan says that food shortages for flying-foxes can often occur at the end of the winter period on the east coast, but the drought conditions and extensive wildfire this year have exacerbated the situation,”

    “Floral resources are in short supply and this is leading to a reduction in the weight of individuals, and in some cases they cannot cope – they are starving to death,” Dr Heenan said.

    “It is a difficult time for everyone following the fires and with the drought conditions occurring, not just for the flying-foxes. As more and more natural habitats are cleared and the pressure on flying-foxes to find reliable food resources increase, it is likely that starvation events such as this will become more common.”

    Flying-foxes can carry Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL), so any exposure via a bite or scratch could lead to infection. In the last month, 10 people have been bitten or scratched after handling bats across the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health Districts.

    Assistant Director North Coast Public Health Unit, Greg Bell, said that residents are advised against handling or touching any injured or dead flying-foxes, even if they appear to be dead, unless trained or vaccinated.

    “If you are bitten or scratched by a flying fox or bat, immediately wash the wound gently but thoroughly with soap and water, apply an antiseptic and consult a doctor as soon as possible to assess the need for further treatment,” Mr Bell said.

    Dr Heenan said that any residents that find flying-foxes sick, injured, in poor heath, or deceased, should contact WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.) immediately via their rescue hotline on 1300 094 737. Vickii Lett, a local WIRES carer, said that the volunteer organisation is keeping track of the number of deaths so that the data can assist researchers in understanding the impact of the recent deaths on the flying-fox population.

    “WIRES are seeking volunteers to assist with wildlife rescue and care. Volunteers are particularly stretched during the post-bushfire recovery period, and so the public are encouraged to get in touch with us if they think they can help,” Ms Lett said.

    Council has launched a Flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley engagement webpage as part of the funded project, seeking input from members of the public via a camp monitor and there’s a Q&A page where you can send us your general queries about flying-foxes. The engagement page is aimed at communicating with the public regarding flying-fox camp management, as well as informing residents about the development of management guidelines for local camps. You can visit the page at https://www.clarenceconversations.com.au/flyingfoxes to explore the camp monitor, learn more about flying-foxes, or keep updated on the project.

  • Flying-fox project launched

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    17 Sep 2019
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    Clarence Valley Council is working with the NSW Government and Local Government New South Wales through a funded project 'Maclean Flying-fox Management’ to deliver improved outcomes for flying-foxes in the Clarence Valley.

    The funded work will include on-ground activities to address negative interactions with flying-foxes, including weed removal and revegetation in existing habitat to increase buffers. Education material will be developed and disseminated to residents in flying-fox habitat to help raise awareness about their ecology. We are working on a communications strategy and will be seeking the input of members of the public in the coming weeks.

    As part of the program, we are also developing a flying-fox management plan for the Clarence Valley Council LGA. The plan will help to define the history of the camps, their ecology, local issues and management of those camps.

    Stay tuned for more information about the project!