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Flying foxes: Residents fed up with being showered in bat poo, with councils trialling methods to disperse them

Every night, homes from the Sutherland Shire to the Sunshine Coast are being covered in bat poo. Picture: Jeremy Piper

December 3, 2016
FREE air-fresheners, water sprinklers in tree canopies and electricity bill rebates to cover the cost of using the clothes dryer — these are some of desperate measures councils are adopting in the war against flying foxes.

A stinking problem that has long affected coastal communities, experts say the issue has become worse in the past four years with habitat clearing together with urban sprawl bringing flying fox roosts closer to residential homes.

Every night, the homes, pools and clothes of thousands of residents from Sutherland Shire in NSW up to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland are being shrouded in bat poo.

Yet scientists attending a Federal parliamentary committee roundtable into flying fox management last week admit they are stumped as to how to best deal with the problem.

In a move to offer residents relief from the daily carpet bombing, Noosa council is trialling water sprinklers near residential homes to “nudge” bats away — a method already deployed by Sunshine Coast Council which has put the sprinklers in tree canopies..

Noosa, which has a colony of around 400,000 flying foxes, is also offering residents free air fresheners, car and clothesline covers, professional cleaning of solar panels and access to high-pressure water cleaners.

Among the options being explored by Ku-ring-gai Council in Sydney include the creation of a 25-50 metre vegetation buffer zone around affected streets where three taller than three metres be cut down.

Avalon parents Melissa and Larry Paice with their two young children Mikayla, 2, and Eden, 4, are getting frustrated with the flying foxes. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Eurobodalla Shire Council is embarking on a three-year dispersal program while Maitland City Council wants alternate roosting sites be set up away from residential communities.

Declaring the situation as “serious”, the NSW Royal Zoological Society president Dr Martin Predavec said there was a need for better co-ordination among governments to manage flying foxes, which had been left to councils to grapple with individually.

“The number of urban camps is increasing — we need to find the root cause and work to

resolve this rather than blindly reacting on a case-by-case basis.”

Committee chair Andrew Broad said the inquiry report would look at threshold triggers for councils to act together with more research and greater sharing of knowledge.

“I’ve suggested piping Justin Bieber music to drive them away, but it is clear that there needs to be better co-ordination among councils in dealing with this problem,” he said.

“It is quite evidence that since 2012, a lot of roosts have moved into urban areas — we don’t know why — maybe we are creating perfect habitats for them.”

The flying foxes pooing across many neighbourhoods has been labelled as a “serious” situation by a doctor. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Northern Beaches Council tried dispersing one of its flying fox colonies last year, only for the bats to return within six weeks.

Local resident Melissa Paice said her family had been given four weeks reprieve after the dispersal.

“We no longer had to close our doors and windows shut to minimise the smell. We no longer had to clean defecation off our house, cars and children’s outdoor toys. We no longer had fear of disease. Life was simply good,” she said.


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Megabats and Microbats: Flying foxes: Residents fed up with being showered in bat poo, with councils trialling methods to disperse them
Flying foxes: Residents fed up with being showered in bat poo, with councils trialling methods to disperse them
Flying foxes: Residents fed up with being showered in bat poo, with councils trialling methods to disperse them
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