Bats in Walkerston

You might have been following the issues with the new bat colony that has taken up residence near Walkerston. Patricia Julien of MCG is calling for a long term and ecologically sound resolution to issues with bat colonies: below is a letter to the editor submitted to the Daily Mercury:

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Many locals believe that most of the flying foxes near Bakers Creek bridge in Walkerston came from the dispersal of 4,800 flying foxes at North Eton which cost Mackay Regional Council around $45,000. Initially the animals dispersed some 1.5 km into four smaller colonies but did not leave the region.[1] As flying foxes are migratory animals that follow food sources much of the colony will likely move on after April but at present they have grown to numbers that are causing persistent sound and odour problems for neighbouring land owners. They are also likely to return when food again becomes more abundant.

Flying-fox camps provide bats with places to rest, court, breed, raise young and exchange information. They also provide night refuge for flightless young. Since the 1990s there has been a noticeable increase in the number of camps near human settlements. This has led to the misconception that flying-foxes have increased in numbers in recent times. However, in fact, previously larger historical camps are being replaced by a greater number of smaller camps, often located in urban areas.[2]

The increase in number of camps near human settlements is due to the encroachment of human development on historical camps, and to a shift of flying fox populations into built environments, possibly because they provide protection from lethal control and harassment, or because they provide access to feeding and roosting habitat. ‘Urban’ camps are important to flying-foxes as they are part of an extensive network of roost sites linking different parts of each species’ range.

A review of the usefulness of flying fox dispersals as a management tool in Australia found dispersed flying fox colonies did not abandon the local area. In 94 per cent of cases dispersals did not reduce the number of flying foxes in a local area. In 63 per cent of cases the animals only moved less than 600m depending on available suitable vegetation. In 85% of cases, new camps were established nearby and it was not possible to predict where new camps would form. In 71% of cases conflict was still being reported either at the original site or within the local area years after the initial dispersal actions. Repeat dispersal actions were generally required except where there was extensive vegetation removal as happened with the North Eton dispersal in April 2010.

Dispersals may work where there are suitable habitat links that allow animals to be directed to an acceptable location. This could require long-term re-vegetation of native species the flying foxes prefer, preferably near or along creeks in rural areas where they have less conflict with humans, coupled with a program to protect urban food sources from flying foxes.

 

Mackay Regional Council’s position on dispersals is available at

http://www.mackay.qld.gov.au/environment/natural_environment/flying_foxes_statement_of_management_intent

 

At present, knowledge of the movement patterns of flying-foxes and the factors influencing the establishment and persistence of their camps is insufficient to accurately predict where flying-foxes will move once relocated from a particular camp. A better understanding of flying-fox relocations would significantly assist organisations responsible for managing flying-fox camps and help identify long-term management solutions that are both ecologically-sound and acceptable to the entire community.



[1] http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/animals/flying-fox-2014-subs/flyingfoxsub-jenny-beatson-part2.pdf

[2] Australasian Bat  Society Bat Dispersal Position Statement, 2015


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