Barb and netting grab flying foxes, other wildlife
NORMALLY WILDCARE WOULD rescue a flying fox no more than once a week. Currently it is more like once a day and almost all are grey-headed flying foxes. One day saw five rescued and come into care. All have been trapped either in netting or on barbed wire, both of which are avoidable dangers, for not only flying foxes, but also birds, gliders and reptiles.
Barbed wire is an iconic Australian bush fencing material and often used quite unnecessarily, sometimes to create a rural atmosphere in new housing developments.
We ask that people think before constructing fences with barbed wire and, indeed, consider taking the top barbed wire strand away entirely from fences or replacing the lot with plain wire — with strands at least 30cm apart and a good distance from the ground to avoid catching kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos.
Netting: consider safer options
Netting is used to protect fruit, including wine grapes, from fruit-eating native animals. There are safe options.
“Flying foxes get their wings caught
in netting that is over a 5mm weave.”
Netting that you can’t poke a finger through is a little more expensive but so much kinder to our native animals.
All the information you need on safe netting is available at www.wildlifefriendlyfencing.com including instructional videos and where to buy it.
Climate change and habitat loss, development, forcing flying foxes closer
Wildcare believes more grey-headed flying foxes in our region this year heralds a more permanent population. Researchers and observers of flying foxes are noticing a change in both their movement patterns and in the number of camps being established all over the state as they gather now in smaller numbers, over more camps, to be closer to food sources.
A drier world, and land development, is pushing the flying foxes out of their natural habitat into more marginal areas.
Nearly all those coming into care in this area are undernourished, indicating they too may be choosing to roost closer to food sources so they don’t have to fly so far each night and use precious energy.
We are seeing camps elsewhere establishing new patterns. The camps in Sydney, for example, have increased from five to 19, although there is no increase in the number of bats.
They are flying out well before dark and returning to roost just before dawn, thus increasing the foraging time. This unprecedented behaviour is due to lack of food, which is, in turn, due to both changing weather conditions and land development.
Yass area camp, more in the area?
A new camp established in Yass this year has some 1,000 grey-headed flying foxes. All those rescued from surrounding fences and nets are undernourished, and faecal testing shows they are subsisting on figs and unripe stone fruit, in desperation, settling for an inadequate food source. Until we have more information we have to assume this camp will fill again next year and that there may be more camps established within the area.
Flying foxes don’t belong to any particular area as they move freely from camp to camp over hundreds of kilometres. Nor will they necessarily be the same individuals. The constant is the camp, not the individual bats, who travel independently of each other, although they are social creatures and require the company of others.
Because they are nomadic and range over an area that extends from Queensland down to Victoria and to South Australia, wildlife rescue groups work closely together to ensure their welfare.
You can help with wildlife-friendly fencing and netting
As part of this wide cooperative effort, Wildcare asks your assistance in ensuring you choose wildlife-friendly nets and fences for these grey-headed flying foxes now listed as vulnerable to extinction.
If you do see a flying fox in trouble do not attempt a rescue yourself because they may, like any frightened wild animal, bite for protection and also, in very rare cases, carry disease.
Call Wildcare immediately on 6299 1966 and they will send a trained rescuer.
IMAGE: Grey-headed flying fox in care. Author supplied.