The Northern NSW Local Health District has today reminded North Coast residents of the dangers of touching injured and dead flying foxes as the summer season approaches.
The Byron Shire Area is home to multiple colonies of endangered Grey-headed Flying Foxes but experts warn that despite people’s good intentions caring for the bats should be left to the experts.
Bats can carry a large number of viruses including Australian Bat Lyssavirus which can be extremely dangerous to humans if bitten or scratched.
In a media statement, North Coast Public Health Unit Director Paul Corben urged residents to not handle the animals themselves, even if they find them injured and distressed.
‘You may put yourself at risk, and also cause more harm to the bat. So, call your local authorised wildlife rehabilitation group or a local veterinarian,’
‘You should only handle flying foxes or microbats if you have been trained by a reputable wildlife organisation, vaccinated against Lyssaviruses and use appropriate protective equipment.’ He said.
Bats have not always lived in such close proximity to humans but the abundance of flowering trees in urban areas may provide an explanation into their recent behaviours explains Peter Boyde, Biodiversity and Agricultural Project Officer at Byron Shire.
‘We think the bats may be migrating to these urban areas because of how quick and easy they’re able to get food from all of the garden fruit and flower trees.’
The council is actively attempting to reduce the conflict between humans and bat colonies by attempting to create areas of better vegetation nearby that may attract the bats away from the urban areas.
‘Bats are a vital part of our ecosystem up here, they act as our primary pollinators particularly for trees that act as food for koalas.’ Mr Boyd said.
He suggests that If people want to help the flying foxes they can start by checking that the nets around their food trees have gaps less than 5mm so the bats don’t get stuck. Landowners, in particular, should also re-evaluate whether or not they need barbed wire on their property where there are fruit trees nearby.
If you find an injured bat please contact Wires Wildlife Rescue at 1300 094 737
For more information regarding safely handling flying foxes and microbats, visit the NSW Health website