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Sunshine Coast Queensland - Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit Bats

Four species of flying fox are native to mainland Australia. They are found mostly in northern and eastern temperate and subtropical coastal areas. Three of these - the little red flying fox, the black flying fox and the grey-headed flying fox - are found on the Sunshine Coast. The Grey-headed flying fox is endemic to Australia and is currently listed federally as vulnerable to extinction.

Flying foxes scatter pollen and seeds during their night time feeding trips. They help with the reproductive processes of forest and woodlands. They can move between habitat types and transport genetic material across landscapes. Their role as long-distance pollinators is unequalled.

The loss of native forests for agriculture and urban development has greatly reduced food sources for flying foxes. A 1993 study showed a loss of approximately two-thirds of south east Queensland’s native vegetation (Catterall & Kingston). The loss included an almost 90% reduction of Melaleuca quinquinervia forests, which are a chief source of winter food for nectar-feeding flying foxes.

This reduction in habitat has forced flying foxes to find other habitats, including patches of bushland in urban areas. This has led to increased contact and conflict with humans.

Flying foxes play an essential role in maintaining the health and variety of forests on the Sunshine Coast.
However, living nearby to these native animals can be challenging.

Tips for living with flying foxes
The Queensland Government has provided a range of suggestions to help residents living nearby to flying foxes. To see these suggestions visit the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

Frequently asked questions
1. There are flying foxes in trees nearby our house at night. Does this mean there is a roost establishing near my home?

Flying foxes are nocturnal animals that fly out from their roost sites at sunset and move around the region at night searching for food. They return to a central roost just before sunrise and rest there throughout the day. So if you see or hear flying foxes in trees near your home at night, it's more than likely they’re only there temporarily to feed.

2. Are flying fox numbers increasing?

No. There have been massive declines in flying fox populations since European colonisation. This is due to land clearing and large-scale culling. Two flying fox species - the Grey-headed and Spectacled flying-foxes - are listed as vulnerable under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

There is a common perception that flying fox numbers are increasing. The reality is that urban expansion is encroaching on areas of flying fox habitat so more roost sites are appearing in urban areas.

Council monitors seven urban roost sites. Results are published on this webpage monthly.

3. Does council have a plan to manage flying foxes?

Yes, council’s Regional Flying Fox Management Plan is available on this website. The plan is approved by the state government as a regional flying fox management plan, and the Australian Government as a conservation agreement for Grey-headed flying foxes.

4. What do I do if I find an injured flying fox?

Call RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL (264 625)

Flying fox management on the Coast
There are more than 22 permanent and temporary flying fox camps on the Sunshine Coast. Flying foxes may occupy a camp for months or years.

Council has developed a Regional Flying Fox Management Plan[1388KB] [pdf backup] that has been endorsed by the state government, and is approved by the federal government as a conservation agreement. [pdf backup Conservation Agreement for the protection and conservation of the Grey-headed Flying-fox] The management plan provides a range of clear management options to assist council in decision-making on how to best manage flying foxes within the region.

Flying fox occupation of roost sites varies between species. Little Red flying foxes move seasonally into areas for short periods of time, whereas Grey-headed and Black flying foxes can occupy roosts for longer periods of time. All flying fox species move in response to changes in surrounding land use, roost habitat quality, and food availability.

Council is taking action on council-controlled land to better manage flying foxes and their co-existence with residents in the region.

On the Sunshine Coast there may be up to three species of flying fox visiting over twenty local roosts, which can be evenly distributed throughout the region, at any one time. These roosts fluctuate in occupancy throughout the year.

In April 2015, council became the first local government in Queensland to deploy satellite tracking technology to monitor these local populations.

This pioneering research, funded by the Environment Levy, will inform and improve flying fox management in the region.

Ten black flying foxes were captured from Elizabeth Street Drain roost in Coolum Beach.

With full ethics approval and in partnership with CSIRO, the trackers were fitted while the flying foxes were under anaesthetic. CSIRO scientists took blood samples, measurements and other vital information about the animal’s biology.

Trackers were switched on for 10 hours every two days, they weighed in at just 9.5g, making up less than 5% of the animals body weight. Solar panels are positioned to allow charging while the flying foxes hang upside down.
Where to from here

Council monitored the animals over the subsequent six to 12 months, using live mapping data provided by the trackers to answer questions such as how far do they travel, is there a relationship between roosts, where do they feed and do management activities work.

This information will assist council in developing proactive and balanced management plans that deliver for both flying foxes and residents.

Anyone wishing to track the project can do so at the following site:
Council has developed a Regional Flying Fox Management Plan, which has Council, State and Federal Government approval as a Conservation Agreement and is available on council's website.

This long-term plan details how council will manage urban flying fox roosts into the future.

The Environment Levy satellite tracking research project will provide essential data to better inform council’s management of the species in an urban landscape.
video backup

Current actions

Cassia Wildlife Corridor
(Coolum Beach) – A non-lethal dispersal was undertaken in May to July of 2014 using noise, smoke and lighting each day as the flying-foxes return to camp at sunrise. This action also included deterrence activity at the nearby Elizabeth St drain bushland area adjacent to Tradewinds Avenue, aimed to prevent a new roost establishing nearby. This was successful at the time of the dispersal action for Cassia however the flying foxes have now returned a establish a roosting site at the Elizabeth St drain site on Tradewinds Ave.

Elizabeth Street Drain (Coolum Beach) - Two non-lethal dispersals were undertaken in May and July of 2015. Flying-foxes returned to the site after both attempts. Limited vegetation management was undertaken in May 2015 in an attempt to prevent flying foxes from spilling over into adjoining private properties. An Options Paper has been commissioned to assess further management actions which may include further vegetation management. The outcomes of the Options Paper is due to be finalised in May 2016 when active management of the roost will assume.

Aragorn Bushland Reserve/Stella Maris School (Maroochydore) – vegetation management was completed in April and June 2014 to establish buffer areas and complete a low intensity burn for the purpose of habitat modification while flying-foxes were absent from the site. A non-lethal dispersal using smoke, noise and lighting was undertaken in April 2016. Currently this roost is unoccupied and a splinter camp has formed at Eudlo Creek Conservation Area.

Dunning Street (Palmwoods) – Based on the recommendations of the site specific Options Paper, council completed weed removal within the roost site during a seasonable absence. The flying-foxes have not returned to Dunning St.

Emerald Woods (Mooloolaba) – Council has completed Stage 1 of works recommended in the site specific Options Paper, a 10 metre buffer from nearby residential properties. A 30 metre vegetation buffer was created behind the primary impacted property and a trial of canopy mounted sprinklers in this area is currently being undertaken. Council received a Flying Fox Roost Management Permit from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to undertake the canopy mounted sprinkler trial in this location.

Vidler Court (Landsborough) – Council has completed the works recommended in the site specific options paper by removal of roosting trees overhanging nearby properties (southern boundary) and establishment of a buffer on the northern boundary, retaining the visual screening for the roost.

Council has commissioned options papers for several roosts within the region. The options papers will discuss mitigation actions to reduce the noise and smell impacts to the nearby community.
Monitoring results

Flying fox protection
All flying fox species are protected in Queensland under the Nature Conservation Act 1994.

The Grey-headed flying fox is also nationally protected under the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. For more information visit the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

The Federal Government is reviewing the status of the Grey-headed flying fox and the CSIRO is conducting the National Flying Fox Monitoring Program. Survey results for camps within the Sunshine Coast can be viewed through the interactive map viewer on the Department of Environment website.

The protected Grey-headed flying fox has been identified at all camps within the Sunshine Coast region. Any proposed management action at roosts where Grey-headed flying foxes are present requires referral to the Commonwealth Government.

Here is an example of a large scale dispersal involving Grey-headed flying foxes at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney.

Community health concerns
Flying foxes can carry Hendra Virus and Australian Bat Lyssavirus. However, contracting a virus from a flying fox is extremely unlikely. You can view up-to-date advice about human and livestock health on the Queensland Health and Biosecurity Queensland websites.



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BatsRule!: Sunshine Coast Queensland - Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit Bats
Sunshine Coast Queensland - Megabats, Flying-foxes, Fruit Bats
Megabats Flying-foxes Fruit Bats - Sunshine Coast Queensland
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