Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t you just get rid of them?
Dispersing a flying fox camp is a very difficult thing to do. And even if you were able move the camp on, they would probably set up a new camp at some of the suitable bushland nearby.
To disperse a camp you would need a team of trained people creating noise, light and smoke. The team would need to include flying-fox experts to monitor animal health and coordinate the dispersal. The noise, smoke and lights would need to be kept up for about two hours before dawn for at least a solid month to prevent the flying foxes coming back and then followed up indefinitely after that.
Based on a study of 17 dispersals around Australia, in 16 cases the flying foxes stayed in the local area, normally moving less than 600 metres from the original camp. In most cases there was still conflict about flying foxes at the original site or the local area years after the dispersal actions.
If the land managers were actually able to successfully disperse the flying fox camps it could then be responsible for managing any conflicts and costs related to new camps that are established as a result of the dispersal.
Can I get sick from flying-foxes?
Human infections from flying foxes are very rare. There are no confirmed cases of anyone ever getting sick by touching flying-fox faeces, urine or blood, but of course you should still wash your hands after touching anything like that.
Advice from the NSW Public Health Unit is:
- Do not attempt to touch or handle live or dead flying foxes
- Only trained, vaccinated bat handlers should attempt to catch injured or sick bats
- If you encounter a sick, injured or dead bat, contact the experts at Native Animal Fund (Hunter Wildlife Rescue) 0412 945 659
- If you have been bitten or scratched by a bat, immediately contact your doctor.
If things become overwhelming,
support is available:
- Contact your GP
- Phone Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Phone Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
What if a flying-fox scratches or bites me?
Do not handle flying foxes.
If you are bitten or scratched, gently but thoroughly wash the wound straight away with soap and water for at least 5 minutes. Put on an antiseptic, such as Betadine and see a doctor as soon as possible.
Find out more in the Department of Primary Industries’ fact sheet about bats and health risks.
What about my pets?
NSW health reports that there is no evidence of dog to human transmission of Hendra virus. According to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Victoria there have been no reports of illness in pets caused by eating deceased flying foxes. However, pets should be kept away from flying foxes if possible to reduce likelihood of scratches or bites. If a pet becomes sick after contact with a flying fox, seek advice from a veterinarian.
Horses may get the Hendra virus infection from eating food recently contaminated by flying-fox urine, saliva or other body fluids. But there is no evidence of human to human, bat to human, bat to dog, or dog to human transmission of Hendra virus. All confirmed human cases to date became infected following high level exposures to body fluids of an infected horse, such as doing autopsies on horses without wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, or being extensively sprayed with mucous from infected horses.
If you have horses, vaccines are the best way to reduce the risk of infection and are available from your vet.
You can get more information on managing horse health risks from the Hendra virus on the Department of Primary Industries website.
Can I drink the water from my rainwater tank?
If you live under the flying fox flight path it is inevitable that flying fox faeces will be washed into your rainwater tanks when it rains. NSW Health recommends against drinking water from rainwater tanks where there is public drinking water available.
Visit the NSW Health website for advice on safely managing rainwater for drinking purposes where there is no alternative supply.
Use the water from your tank for the garden, toilet flushing and car washing. However, the water will contain the faeces, including any fruit-colouring, unless you use a 'first-flush' system to prevent the first portion of roof run-off from entering the tank.
Local water catchment: There is no evidence that a flying fox camp has any impact on publicly available drinking water provided by local authorities. The water continues to be treated and this eliminates any contamination from additional flying fox faeces in the catchment.
Why are there so many flying-foxes in East Cessnock?
The East Cessnock camp is estimated to have over 45,000 flying foxes this year. An estimate in May saw the camp comprise around 35,000 Little Red Flying Foxes and 10,000 Grey Headed Flying foxes.
The flying fox camp is on the kind of land flying foxes prefer: with trees, on flat ground, preferably near water and with good food sources close by. There are many other equally good sites in the Hunter. We don’t know why so many flying foxes this year, but here are some facts from the Office of Environment and Heritage:
- It appears that the flying foxes have arrived to feed on spotted gums, which are currently flowering, and are a favoured food source.
- A number of rainforest species are also fruiting, which will be providing a supplementary food source.
- Flowering patterns in spotted gums are particularly variable, with the species being renowned for occasional years of mass flowering. This year may be one of them.
- It is unclear where the flying-foxes have come from, but they will have left areas where food is in short supply and come to the Hunter and surrounding areas to take advantage of the food being provided locally and by the surrounding forests.
- Research into flying-foxes, their behaviour, their camps, their use of resources and their numbers is continuing.