More than 2000 flying foxes have died from the heatwave with thousands of dead bats picked up by Richmond Valley Council officers in Casino’s McAuliffe Park, in the Hickey and Barker streets area, as well as in Queen Elizabeth Park, along the riverbank, and on the roadway.
The increasing heat from climate change and clearing in Queensland, that is destroying their natural habitat, is seriously impacting the black flying fox.
‘It is mainly the blacks that are dying in the high temperatures,’ said Wendy Attrill from the Northern River Wildlife Carers (NRWC).
Once temperatures hit 42 degrees the black flying fox starts to experience heat stress and their organs begin to shut down. The little reds, a nomadic flying fox, cope with the heat more effectively and only one or two dropped over the weekend and they were rehydrated.
‘The blacks are a sub-tropical bat and according to studies they are moving south because of the clearing in Queensland,’ continued Attrill. ‘We expect to see more of the bats drop over the next week and this will have a huge impact on the breeding cycle of the blacks.’ The flying fox only produces one young a year and the females are not ready to breed until they are two to three years old.
NRWC have taken approximately 50 juveniles and a few adults into care over the weekend. ‘There was one baby who dropped who still had the umbilical cord attached,’ said Attrill.
‘Climate change is having an impact with it getting hotter and hotter every year.’
The bush fire brigade were able to supply some relief when they came down and sprayed the tree. As it gets hotter the bats move down the tree and the NRWC are able to use backpacks to spray the bats lower branches.
If you see any lone bats in trees during the day this is a sign that they may be in trouble, call the NRWC 24 hours rescue line 662801866 or WIRES emergency hotline on 66281898.
Don not rescue a bat in distress. A small number carry a disease similar to rabies called bat lyssavirus that can be transferred to humans. Three people have died in Australia of the disease since it was discovered in 1996.
Avoid the area
Richmond Valley Council’s General Manager Vaughan Macdonald said the extreme heat was a tragedy for the bats.
Mr Macdonald said it was likely Council crews would continue the collection of dead bats over the coming week, which may extend into private property.
He said there were still large numbers dead in trees, and along the riverbank, out of the reach of Council crews.
‘Whatever anyone’s opinion is either side of the bat debate, no one wishes this sort of tragedy on the bats,’ Mr Macdonald said.
‘It just goes to show the extent and intensity of the extreme heat we experienced yesterday. The bats couldn’t deal with the heat.’
Mr Macdonald said while Council officers were acting as quickly as possible to remove the dead bats; residents were advised to stay clear until all dead bats were taken away.
He said Council crews were having difficulty accessing some areas of the riverbank and unfortunately this meant there may be an unpleasant odour for a while.
He said Council’s environmental health officers would continue to monitor the site.
‘Some areas along the riverbank are inaccessible and the stench from the rotting carcasses will be quite unbearable for some time yet,’ Mr Macdonald said.
Mr Macdonald said people should avoid the area and not try to help living bats themselves as they could bite and scratch and some carry the lyssavirus.
He said parents and teachers needed to be especially vigilant to ensure children remained safe.
‘Young children could be attracted to the bats on the ground but there could be serious health risks if they pick them up,’ Mr Macdonald said.