WATCHFUL EYE: Flying foxes are being monitored on the edge of Stanthorpe.
WATCHFUL EYE: Flying foxes are being monitored on the edge of Stanthorpe. Contributed

Colony takes up residence on edge of town

HUNDREDS of flying foxes have been located in Stanthorpe with residents urged to steer clear of the colonies.

Southern Downs Regional Council's Director Planning, Environment and Corporate Services, Ken Harris said a Council Officer has inspected an area in Stanthorpe where the flying foxes are currently roosting.

"The animals appear to be grey-headed flying foxes and it appears that there are several hundred roosting at a site on the edge of town,” he said.

Grey-headed flying foxes can be unpredictable in terms of how long they will roost in any particular location. Red flying foxes will often move on after about eight weeks, and usually eat blossoms, whereas Grey-headed flying foxes may move on at any time and will tend to eat fruit.

"However, it's important for the public to note that, like all flying foxes, Greys are a protected native animal,” Mr Harris said.

"Greys are listed under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, as well as protected under Queensland's Nature Conservation Act 1992, and there are heavy penalties imposed by both the State and Federal governments for harming animals or disturbing roosts.”

Primary producers, and in particular fruit growers, that are concerned about damage being sustained to their crops by flying foxes, can apply to the DEHP for a Damage Mitigation Permit to undertake lethal control on their properties.

Growers should contact the Department direct for information about such permits.

Council will continue to monitor the flying foxes but, at this stage, is not considering attempting to move the colonies on.

Mr Harris pointed out that a very small percentage of flying foxes carry the Lyssavirus.

"Bats and flying foxes may carry bacteria and viruses, such as Australian Bat Lyssavirus, which can be harmful to humans. The risk of infection is low, but people should avoid handling these animals.

"Council certainly urges all residents, including children, not to handle sick, injured or orphaned flying foxes.

"If you find a sick, injured or orphaned flying fox or bat, do not touch it. Contact the RSPCA (1300 ANIMAL or 1300 264 625) or your local wildlife care group/rescuer/carer or the DEHP (1300 130 372) for assistance,” said Mr Harris.

The DEHP's website does note that Flying-foxes are hosts for Hendra virus, which occasionally spills over from the flying-fox population into horses.

"As a precautionary measure, horse owners should not feed or water horses beneath trees where flying foxes roost or visit regularly,” Mr Harris said.