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Flying Foxes

Subject to changes in season and food availability, Ipswich is home to between four and ten flying fox camps. All are located in roosts found along natural or man-made water courses in urban, peri-urban and rural areas of the city.

Flying fox colonies in Ipswich

The Woodend colony was previously one the largest colonies in South East Queensland, at times hosting over 250,000 flying foxes. During the 1980s, the Camira colony had flying foxes in the hundreds of thousands. The majority of these two colonies originally came from Sapling Pocket, where one of the largest colonies in Queensland lived until continued disturbance dispersed the colony. Following degradation of roosting habitat at Woodend, a number of smaller local roosts emerged. There is now a scattering of small colonies around Ipswich, none of which reach the population sizes common in the 1980s.

Download the Ipswich Flying-Fox Management Plan (PDF, 3.1 MB)

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Flying fox species

  • Australia is home to four species of flying fox (Pteropodidae). Due to the decreasing availability of natural habitat as a result of urbanisation and destruction of historic habitat, these species are coming into increasing contact with humans.
  • Flying foxes are complex, highly social and mobile native animals. They make a significant contribution to environmental health and the economy through their role as essential pollinators and seed dispersers for native forests.
  • With well-developed sensory systems, flying foxes rely on eyesight, sound and smell to interact with their environment. Unlike their smaller insectivorous cousins, they do not echolocate or use ultrasound. Flying foxes weigh between 300 and 1000 grams, with an average wingspan of up to one meter. The wings of flying foxes have the same structure as human hands, with bones elongated to accommodate the wing membrane and support the body in flight.
  • Flying fox species in Ipswich include:

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Importance of flying foxes

  • Flying foxes play a vital role in the regeneration of native forests. Due to their nocturnal feeding habits and extensive feeding ranges, flying foxes are able to pollinate tree species that produce most of their nectar at night and are thus not serviced by day-feeding birds and bees.
  • Flying foxes are therefore the most important species in the country for pollination and long distance dispersal of Eucalypt species. This has important flow-on effects for other native species, such as koalas, that rely on flying fox pollination for the growth and maintenance of their own feeding and shelter trees.

For more information on how flying foxes benefit the environment: The Importance of Flying Foxes.

Living with flying foxes

  • Both flying foxes and people like to camp near water and when their homes overlap - as they increasingly do -there are various inconveniences for all. For humans, flying foxes can create noise and smell.
  • Flying foxes use sound as a means of communication. Their hearing is similar to humans, making their calls clearly audible to our ears. Vocalisations between individuals are necessary for social communication, e.g. during the defence of territories.
  • Away from camps, flying foxes can sometimes be heard feeding in trees at night. Flying foxes are loyal to feeding sites - noise indicates the defence of feeding territory and will cease as soon as the trees from which they are feeding finish flowering or fruiting.
  • Flying foxes spend hours grooming and practice exemplary personal hygiene. Their smell helps them identify each other and communicate things like ‘keep your distance’. One dominant odour is a musk-like ‘perfume’ that males use to mark their breeding territories. What you find smelly, they may find seductive. Flying foxes only take 15 to 20 minutes to digest food and usually defecate a distance away from camps.
  • The little red flying fox is often the main species causing concern for human residents. Little red flying foxes are highly nomadic, taking up camp wherever their favourite flowers and fruits are in season. As part of their nomadic behaviour, they visit Ipswich to take advantage of a mass flowering event of native trees across South East Queensland. What little reds lack in size they make up for in numbers and often exacerbate the volumes of noise, smell and damage in a colony.

For more information on the lifestyle of flying foxes and minimising their impact on daily life: Living With Flying Foxes.

Flying foxes in fruit trees

  • Although flying foxes prefer the fruit and nectar of native plants such as the Eucalypt tree species, paperbarks and figs, they will also feed on cultivated fruit - especially when there is a shortage of native food. Fruit that has been partly eaten by flying foxes should not be consumed by people.
  • Fruit covered in guano (bat droppings) should be washed thoroughly and peeled prior to consumption. Non-peelable, contaminated fruit such as mulberries should be avoided as a matter of good hygiene practice. Netting or placing paper bags over fruit can be an effective technique in deterring feeding flying foxes.

For more information on suitable netting techniques: Netting Fruit Trees.

Management of flying foxes

  • In recent decades the increasing modification of our natural environment has had a detrimental impact on most species of flora and fauna, including flying foxes. Extensive clearing of native forests for agriculture and urbanisation has diminished the habitat of much of our native wildlife to small, isolated patches. The loss of this forest resource and its functions as food-provider and roosting habitat has led to increased confrontations between flying foxes and people. Management of flying fox colonies has a long history with very few success stories.
  • Small forest remnants in urban areas are often overcrowded with bats and seasons of poor fruiting and flowering in nature force hungry flying foxes to turn to cultivated fruit as an alternative. However, flying foxes are not pest species or vermin and are never in ‘plague proportion’. Living in colonies means that large numbers of the one species are often congregated in a single small area as a totally natural and common way of living.
  • It is important that any management action conducted is well planned and coordinated. Considerations around the general welfare of the species must also be taken into account, including current mating or breeding seasons, species movement patterns and regional food availability. For example, if little red flying foxes are the species of concern in April or May, there may be little point in dispersing them as they will soon move on naturally as part of their yearly migration northwards.

For more information on the history of flying fox management: Review of Past Flying Fox Dispersal Actions.

Legal protection of flying foxes

For more information and applications for a Damage Mitigation Permit: State Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Flying foxes and public health

For more information on diseases related to flying foxes and measures to minimise the risk to humans and animals: Viruses Hosted by Flying Foxes and Bats and Human Health.

FAQs

What can I do to manage flying foxes roosting on my property?

Any resident can apply to the State Department of Environment and Heritage Protection for a Flying Fox Roost Management Permit (FFRMP). Under this permit, a private resident will be able to apply for the ability to disperse and destroy a flying fox roost in compliance with the permit conditions.

What is Council's role in managing flying foxes?

Local governments in Queensland have a voluntary ‘as of right’ authority to manage flying fox roosts within the urban flying fox management area should they choose to do so. This means that local governments can undertake management action, including dispersal, without the need for a damage mitigation permit issued by the Department of Environment and Heritage. However, all actions must comply with relevant codes of practice.

Ipswich City Council has voluntarily developed and adopted policies and plans related to flying fox roost management. Historical studies of flying fox dispersals indicate that colonies in general will move less than 500 metres away from their original location if there is other suitable habitat around. Given that most roosts are found in urban areas, this means that the problem is rarely solved and is instead only shifted from one location to another.

What is Council's role in managing flying foxes on private property?

Council will take responsibility for managing flying foxes on Council owned or managed land. Ipswich City Council and the state government will provide support to private landholders on the technical aspects of managing flying fox roosts. Where a flying fox roost is bordering Council-owned or managed land and private property, Council will assess the need for management action with affected landholders.

Should I be concerned with flying foxes feeding in my trees?

Flying foxes usually choose to feed on nectar from native Eucalypt species, as well as fig trees and select fruit trees. Fruit trees such as mango trees are generally a secondary food source, but used more frequently in urban areas when local flying fox numbers are high. Flying foxes will generally utilise a food source for a very limited time and move on when it is depleted. Most trees will only be used for a couple of weeks every year.

Why has the population of a nearby colony exploded overnight?

The little red flying-fox is a nomadic species that move seasonally in response to the patterns of flowering Eucalypts and paperbarks. Little reds are noticeably smaller than more permanent residents and can often be seen roosting in extremely close proximity to one another. As the species exists as a large nomadic population that packs huge numbers of bats in a small area, summer influxes of little reds temporarily swell the size of the colony, increasing the volume of noises and smells.

There are dead bats on my property, what do I do?

Occasionally, juvenile or injured bats may be found on the ground or caught in barbed-wire fencing. Do not handle these animals, but immediately contact Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland. In the unlikely event that you are bitten or scratched, wash injury site thoroughly with soap and water and contact your local GP and Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland.

If you find a dead flying fox on the ground on your property carefully place the carcass in your general waste bin. Be careful when collecting dead bats and ensure you do not touch the bats directly. Use thick, impenetrable gloves or a shovel. Alternatively, you can wrap the body in a plastic bag and bury it in a hole at least 15 centimetres deep to avoid it being dug up by dogs.

If there are a large number of dead bats and you require additional collections to dispose of them, please contact Council on (07) 3810 6666.

I hear that flying foxes carry diseases - is this true?

Viruses capable of causing disease in animals and humans have been linked to bats in recent years. Of these, the Hendra virus (equine Morbillivirus) and Australian bat lyssavirus are the most notable. Members of the public are strongly advised against handling any bat. Only those few trained individuals who are protected by vaccination and suitable equipment should handle bats. This advice is not limited only to flying foxes, but is also true for insectivorous bats.

For further information regarding diseases related to flying foxes: Viruses Hosted by Flying Foxes.

Where can I find further information on flying foxes?