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ACT Wildlife warn to keep clear of flying foxes 'falling out of the sky'

A malnourished flying fox pup getting cared for by ACT Wildlife volunteers Photo: Rohan Thomson

Starved baby bats are "falling out of the sky" around Canberra and wildlife services have warned the public not to handle the potentially disease carrying animals.

These juvenile flying foxes, known as pups, are among the few survivors of more than 30 cases of malnourished, injured and dead bats reported in the past month.

ACT Wildlife's Kristie Hawkins said reports like this had been unusually high in Canberra but a lack of food during the species' birthing season was having a "horrendous impact here and on the coast".

Without adequate milk, the pups weren't strong enough to be independent, yet they were too heavy to be carried by their starving mothers.

Hanging out on someone's dressing gown was not the start ACT Wildlife imagined for these young flying foxes Photo: Rohan Thomson

"We are seeing underweight, malnourished terrified babies," she said "We have eight in care. We have had a few die and there have been several found dead."

Canberra's largest flying fox colony hang out during the warmer months in Commonwealth Park and ACT Volunteers from the Australasian Bat Society have counted 1200 there this season.

However, Ms Hawkins said distressed bats were going far and wide for food and were being found all over.

"They have been in random places, we found one in a school, one in a backyard, one in the street," she said. "They are very distressed and out of sorts."

ACT Wildlife Flying Fox coordinator Kirstie Hawkins with Hannah Calderwood who is learning how to look after the bats. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The haphazard activity meant inexperienced people were spotting the animals and Ms Hawkins said it was important people prioritise their own safety and call ACT Wildlife or RSPCA ACT to respond as bats could carry Hendra virus and Australian bat Lyssavirus.

ACT Wildlife has begun training foster carers to help look after the eight surviving young from Canberra and another eight due to come from the Shoalhaven Bat Clinic in Nowra.

"Our babies, when they start flying, have to go the Nowra colony," Ms Hawkins said.

"We depend on Nowra to take our bats, but they are overwhelmed at the moment and have called for help with their babies. So we are taking on another eight."

Twenty-year-old biology student Hannah Calderwood has volunteered to look after a couple of flying fox pups over the summer.

She has had the requisite rabies inoculations and just completed training in handling, cleaning and feeding the pups cows milk and soft fruit.

"My dad started off with ACT Wildlife and when I heard about it I wanted to be involved," she said.

"Kristie was inundated with them so it is definitely a good feeling to be able to help out and know at least we can give a couple of the little guys a new lease on life."

If all goes well come February the sixteen surviving flying foxes will travel to Nowra and spend up to eight weeks learning to fly in the colony there before being released.



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BatsRule!: ACT Wildlife warn to keep clear of flying foxes 'falling out of the sky'
ACT Wildlife warn to keep clear of flying foxes 'falling out of the sky'
ACT Wildlife warn to keep clear of flying foxes 'falling out of the sky'
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