The number of flying foxes at known Eurobodalla camps were the lowest recorded since official counts started in 2012.
Around 3380 flying foxes were counted at the five camps – Batemans Bay water gardens, Catalina golf club, Moruya, Tuross Head, and Narooma – at the peak of the 2020-21 season, compared to 19,550 in 2019 and more than 250,000 in 2016.
Eurobodalla Council’s flying fox officer Natalie Foster said the low numbers of grey-headed flying foxes were likely due to food shortages in the shire following the 2019-20 bushfires.
“There were many reports of flying foxes lost during and after the bushfires with evidence supporting a significant reduction in the overall population,” Ms Foster said. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment estimated 68,500 NSW flying foxes died due to drought, fire and heat stress in 2019-20.
“With 79 per cent of Eurobodalla fire affected, food for the flying foxes would be impacted and it’s likely that influenced our numbers here. We know that some of the camps further south in un-burnt areas of the Bega Valley had record numbers of flying foxes visiting last season,” Ms Foster said.
“Interestingly, the flying foxes also left Eurobodalla in mid-May, which is earlier than usual.”
The majority of complaints to Council about flying foxes and their camps have to do with noise and faecal mess when flying foxes forage in residential areas. Record numbers of grey-headed flying foxes at the Batemans Bay water gardens in 2016 led to the development of the Eurobodalla Flying-fox Management Plan, adopted by Council in 2018.
Ms Foster said that stakeholder engagement at that time showed 75 per cent of respondents sought long-term solutions to flying fox impacts on residents.
“For example, Council has created buffer zones by removing vegetation between private property and camps, offered a variety of subsidies to affected residents and provided the use of high-pressure cleaners to anyone needing to clean up bat waste.
More recently Council has worked with residents to remove weedy cocos palms. The large bunches of fibrous fruit are very attractive to flying foxes but also can be harmful, even fatal. Ms Foster said around 175 cocos palms had been removed from gardens in high-priority areas near flying fox camps.
“We’ve supplied residents with a native tree to replace the removed palms,” Ms Foster said.
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