Many people on the north coast net their fruit trees to ensure there’s some fruit left for them when it ripens.
But badly netted trees are a danger to wildlife, so carers and authorities are appealing to backyard fruit-tree owners to use a simple ‘finger test’ to help protect their fruit and native animals.
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) community relations ranger Kerrie Metzler said netting is a popular way to protect fruit from wildlife, particularly in urban areas, but the wrong size of netting can be deadly.
‘This season there has been a significant increase in injuries and deaths to wildlife caused by incorrect fruit-tree netting’, Ms Metzler said.
‘Birds, bats, lizards, snakes and the occasional possum are the main victims,’ she said.
‘Flying foxes often get the blame for a lot of damage to fruit that is actually caused by birds and other animals,’ she said.
‘A simple way to test for the correct size of netting to provide protection for flying foxes and other wildlife is the “finger test”.
‘If your finger won’t fit through then it is the ideal size to provide protection from predation from most animals.’
‘Animals are easily caught in netting that has a mesh size greater than 1cm square, so choosing the correct netting is the simplest way to help protect fruit and our wildlife.
‘In addition to small mesh size it is important that the netting is stretched tightly over the trees and that it is well secured. Frames can be used to help achieve this’.
Northern rivers wildlife carer Cheryl Cochran said that this year is an exceptionally bad year for netting rescues.
‘Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers and WIRES have received calls regarding thirty-one flying foxes and birds as well as eight reptiles already this year compared to just three flying foxes last year.
‘Some were dead on arrival and others, unfortunately, had to be euthanised’, Cheryl said.
Dispose of unwanted netting responsibly so that it cannot become a hazard to wildlife, Kerrie said.
‘For assistant with wildlife entanglements telephone Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers, 6628 1866 or WIRES, 6628 1898.