Please do NOT touch any bat – report all sick and injured bats to the WILDCARE Hotline on 07 5527 2444 or to another wildlife care organization.
For more information on sick and injured bats – Click here
Did you know….
- Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight
- Bats are a very important pollinator of native plants and disperse seeds over a wide area.
- There are about 950 species of bats in the world
- The smallest bat in the world is the Bumble Bee Bat which lives in Thailand and weighs only 2 grams
- The largest bat in the world is the Giant Flying Fox which lives in India and has a wingspan of 1.8 metres
- Bats are eutherian mammals and like humans they carry the foetus in the uterus until it is well developed.
- Bats cannot stand on their hind legs, they can only hang.
Found a Sick or Injured Flying Fox?
Flying foxes leave their camps on dusk each day and travel long distances foraging for food. In the mornings they return to their camp where they spend the remainder of the day resting and socialising. If a flying fox does not return to its camp, it may mean that there is something wrong with it. It could be injured or sick, or perhaps it is a juvenile flying fox that has travelled a little too far and has not had the strength to return back to the camp.
If you happen to find a flying fox hanging by itself in a tree or shrub, you should report it to your local wildlife care group immediately even if you do not think that it is injured. When flying foxes hang with their wings wrapped around their body, it can often hide serious injuries. Your local wildlife group will then dispatch a vaccinated volunteer to check on whether the flying fox is injured and if it is, they will take the flying fox to receive appropriate treatment and care.
It is very important if you do find a flying fox, that you DO NOT TOUCH IT. You should ensure that you keep all domestic animals away from it and ensure that no one goes near the bat. Remember, they have a wide wingspan so you should keep a safe distance away from the bat.
Bats, including flying foxes, can carry the Australian Bat Lyssavirus. This disease can be transmitted to humans through being bitten or scratched by a bat. If you are bitten or scratched, the bat would need to be tested for the Australian Bat Lyssavirus. To do this, the bat would need to be euthanased in order to be tested.
All volunteer wildlife rehabilitators that rescue sick and injured bats are required to be vaccinated against the Australian Bat Lyssavirus. No unvaccinated person should ever attempt to rescue a sick or injured bat under any circumstances.
Why Do Flying Foxes Need Rescuing?
Some of the common reasons why Flying Foxes that come into care in South East Queensland are:-
Flying Foxes often come into care after hitting a car or flying into a window or building. They can suffer from a variety of injuries from mild concussion to broken wings, broken legs and/or internal bleeding.
Caught in fruit netting:
Often flying foxes are found entangled in fruit netting in suburban areas. This usually occurs when the fruit netting has been installed incorrectly. The injuries sustained can be quite severe as their blood circulation is often greatly restricted and causes their wing membrane to die back. For more information on the correct method of installing fruit netting please do not hesitate to contact WILDCARE or visit the DERM Website.
Caught on barb wire fence:
There are many commercial and rural areas in South--east Queensland were where barb wire is still found. This poses a great threat to not only flying foxes, but also birds, kangaroos, koalas, possums and gliders, who become entangled in the wire when they are flying low. It is a difficult and time consuming task to untangle a flying fox from a barb wire fence and often the injuries are so severe that the animal cannot be saved. Often the flying fox will try to chew itself free from the barb wire which often results in severe injuries to their mouth. In most cases it is easier to cut the fence and take the animal and wire to a veterinary clinic so they can be placed under anesthesia and the wire removed painlessly.
For information on wildlife friendly fencing visit the Wildlife Friendly Fencing website at www.wildlifefriendlyfencing.com
Extreme weather conditions:
Flying foxes are often found disorientated or displaced after severe storms. There have also been instances where extreme heat waves or cold has resulted in the death of thousands of animals in flying fox camps.
Flying foxes suffer from the paralysis tick in the same manner that many domestic animals do. If found and treated early, they have a better chance of survival.
Flying foxes are prone to being attacked by domestic dogs, particularly when they are feeding on low vegetation. Any animal that is bitten or suspected of being bitten by a domestic animal requires immediate veterinary attention.
Poisoning from Palm Berries:
Flying foxes tend to feed on the berries of the Cocos Palm in South East Queensland. This fruit though can be toxic to the bats if eaten when not fully ripe.
Trapped in Palm Fronds:
Occasionally, we receive calls for flying foxes who have managed to get their feet caught in the tight fronds of palm trees.
Burns from power lines:
Flying foxes often land on power lines which usually causes no harm. However if the flying fox reaches out with its wing and grasps another power line it is electrocuted. Often they die shortly thereafter from the electrocution but in some instances, they can manage to drop to the ground or fly away with burns to their feet and wings.
As flying foxes age, their teeth wear down and they are unable to eat adequately. They then become malnourished and become weak and often then come into care.
During the birthing season, orphaned flying foxes come into care for a variety of reasons. Often their mother is electrocuted but the baby survives or sometimes they might become separated from their mother for a variety of reasons. These orphans are then bought into care and raised by a team of dedicated volunteer wildlife carers.
Microbat or Megabat?
Microbats are small bats with a wingspan of about 25cm. They feed on insects such as mosquitos. Many microbats use echolocation to navigate in complete darkness. Some microbats spend their days deep within caves while others rest beneath bark on trees and in man-made structures such as houses and buildings.
Megabats, or fruit bats as they are often called, are usually a lot larger in size with a wingspan of up to 1 metre. They feed on fruit, blossoms and nectar. They do not use echolocation to navigate at night but have well-developed eyes and a strong sense of smell which helps them locate food. They live in social groups in trees in “camps”.
Identification of Flying Foxes
In South-east Queensland, there are 3 species of flying fox which commonly occur. The Grey Headed Flying Fox, Black Flying Fox and Little Red Flying Fox.
Black Flying Fox (Pteropus alecto)
The Black Flying Fox is the largest of the 3 common species found in South-east Queensland. Adults weigh 600 to 900 grams and have a forearm length of 153mm to 191mm. The Black Flying Fox has black fur often with a reddish brown mantle on the back of the neck. Its fur is sometimes tipped with white. The lower leg and ankle is unfurred. Some Black Flying Foxes have lighter fur around their eyes.
Their preferred diet includes blossoms of eucalypts and paperbark as well as fruit. This includes the blossoms and fruit of introduced species. They congregate in camps during the day and travel about 50kms to foraging areas at night. Mating season is in March and April, with the females giving birth to a single young in October and November.
The Black Flying Fox has a range from Northern Australia from around Shark Bay in Western Australia to northern NSW. They appear to be extending their range further south into New South Wales. They also occur in Indonesia and southern New Guinea.
Grey Headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
The Grey Headed Flying Fox adult weighs between 600grams – 1000 grams. They have a forearm of 150mm – 1800mm. The Grey Headed Flying Fox has silver-grey to dark grey fur with rusty-brown to orange mantle encircling the neck. Its fur extends down the legs to the toes.
The diet of the Grey Headed Flying Fox includes the fruit and blossoms of some 80 species. The young are born between September to November and mating takes place April to May.
The Grey Headed Flying Fox has a range from around Rockhampton in Queensland, along the coastal strip through to New South Wales to Western Victoria. It is endemic to Australia and is listed as vulnerable.
Little Red Flying Fox (Pteropus scapulatus)
The Little Red Flying Fox is the smallest of the species found in South East Queensland. Adults weigh 300-600 grams and have a forearm of 125-155mm. It has a rich reddish-brown to light brown fur all over the body, often with a grey patch on the head. The wings are red-brown and are translucent in flight. There is often light creamy brown fur where the wing membrane and the shoulder meet.
Little Red Flying Foxes are predominantly blossom feeders and since the flowering of Australian plants varies depending on climatic conditions, the unpredictability of this food resource means that the Little Red Flying Fox is highly nomadic. In the camps, which they commonly share with Black and Grey Headed Flying Fox, they hang in tight groups and the combined weight often results in damage to their roost trees. Mating occurs from November to January and the young are born April to May.
The Little Red Flying Fox has a range from Shark Bay in Western Australia through Queensland and down to northern Victoria. They have a range much further inland than the other species.
Flying foxes live in communal groups. They have a preference for tall and reasonably dense vegetation close to creeks or rivers or over swampy areas. Some camps are permanent and are occupied all year round. During summer these camps are usually the largest and noisiest as they are breeding camps. For the rest of the year camps are smaller and quieter and often transitory in response to food sources. Permanent camps need an area large enough to allow bats to move within the camp so that damaged vegetation can recover.
Little Red Flying Foxes are the most destructive of campsite vegetation. This is caused by their roosting behaviour of forming dense clusters of up to 30 bats hanging from one small branch. The combined weight of the animals often causes the branches to break. The result is areas of broken vegetation that appears to have been damaged by storms. As clearing of forest vegetation continues the availability of camp sites have become more restricted and the incidence of damaged vegetation is on the increase. Flying foxes are increasingly setting up camps in suburban areas. This can be in response to destruction of existing areas due to development or the continuous disturbance of campsites. There are other advantages in the form of reliable food sources from garden fruit trees and the policy of councils planting native vegetation. Many campsites previously located in rural areas have been overtaken by the urban sprawl.
The diet of the Grey Headed Flying Fox and the Black Flying fox consist of fruit, pollen, nectar, stamen and flower parts, leaves and bark. The Little Red Flying Fox is predominantly a pollen and nectar feeder and is a “blossom nomad” and follows the flowering of native vegetation.
Flying Foxes have a preference for blossoms that consist of light coloured flowers arranged in bunches located on the periphery of the tree canopy. The flowers of most eucalypts, lilly pilly and melaleuca exhibit these characteristics. They also produce the most nectar and pollen at night. As they gather nectar, they also have deposits of pollen on their chests which they transfer to other trees. Flying foxes are the major pollinators of eucalyptus and rainforests. Preferred fruit is also in bunches, at the end of branches. A sweet musky odour is highly attractive, but colour is not important for the Grey Headed or Black Flying Fox. Urban bats also eat domestic fruit such as mulberries and mango.
The male flying fox does not begin breeding until around the age of 30 months.
The females commence breeding in the second year after their birth, and from then on most of the year is tied up with some part of their reproductive cycle, or caring for young. Females ovulate from February to April and give birth to a single young (occasionally twins) from October to December.
The Little Red Flying Fox breeds six months out of phase with the other flying foxes and gives birth between May to July.
How Can You Live In Harmony With Flying Foxes?
WILDCARE receives occasional calls from members of the public seeking advice in relation to issues involving flying foxes. Some of the more common calls that we receive include:-
How can I stop flying foxes from making a mess when they eat fruit from my palm trees?
The easiest way to stop this is to remove the fruit from the palm trees. The fruit of the cocos palm can be toxic to flying foxes anyway. In South-east Queensland Cocos Palms are considered a pest.
We have a lot of gum trees and I don’t like the noise they make at night when they are feeding in the trees?
The blossom and nectar of gum and melaleucas trees makes up the natural diet of the flying fox. Gum trees only flower for a relatively short period of time so the noise shouldn’t last for too long. Remember that flying foxes are the chief pollinators of eucalypt and rainforests so it is important that they have access to their natural diet so that they can continue to pollinate our forests.
How can I stop them eating the fruit off our fruit trees?
Many people have learned to compromise with both birds and flying foxes. You can place paper bags over the low hanging fruit that you wish to keep for yourself; this will ensure that the flying foxes, birds and insects cannot gain access to this fruit. You can then leave the remainder of the fruit higher in the tree for the flying foxes and birds.
How can I correctly put netting from my fruit trees?
If you wish to put fruit netting over fruit trees, there are some very important considerations that you should note for the safety of both flying foxes and birds. Firstly it is important that you use good quality netting. Secondly, when installing the netting, drive some stakes into the ground, bend some PVC pipe over the fruit tree and then cover this frame with the netting. You MUST pull the netting taut and secure it well to the ground. If birds or flying foxes then land on the netting they have less chance of being coming entangled in it as they should be able to fly off the netting.
For more information on the correct method of installing fruit netting visit the DERM Website.
Caring For Bats
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer bat rehabilitator, you should contact WILDCARE or your local wildlife group.
They truly are remarkable and intelligent animals and many wildlife carers have found the experience of rescuing and caring for sick and injured bats to be one of the most rewarding jobs.