Public to decide fate of flying foxes

AFTER 13 years of expensive and frustrating efforts, Singleton Council says it is now up to the community to choose how the Upper Hunter town’s troublesome flying foxes  are managed.

The council has produced a list of options and one is to turn the damaged Burdekin Park, where the flying foxes have roosted since 2000, into a threatened species tourist attraction.

There is also the possibility of installing ‘‘structures that represent trees’’ that are moved around the town to encourage the flying foxes to ‘‘move on’’.

In what many long-suffering ratepayers might say is a surrender to the species, the council said it hopes there will be a better understanding of the creatures to ‘‘create a positive impact between the grey-headed flying foxes and the local residents,’’ a draft report says.

Possible  management options are costed at between several thousands of dollars and several millions.

Some of the options listed won’t be possible because of laws protecting the species and include already unsuccessful remedies, such as ‘‘nudging’’ the creatures somewhere else and creating crashing and banging noises to force them away.

Or people can choose to fence off the park, hand it over totally to the flying foxes in recognition of the threatened species and promote it as a tourist attraction, the draft report says.  

Sadly, the council acknowledges what many people have been saying for years.

Burdekin Park has lost its status as the town’s premier park because of the damage caused by the creatures and their roosting activities that have driven people away and forced important civic events to be held elsewhere.

Many experts believe the expansion of flying fox breeding colonies into Hunter urban areas is a result of habitat loss because of development and vegetation clearing.

The public comment period on the  plan ends on February 26.

GREY-HEADED FLYING FOX

One of the largest bats in Australia. Wingspan can exceed 1m.

Also known as fruit bat.

Mostly dark brown apart from a grey head and orange-red mantle encircling their necks.

Body can grow between 23cm and 28cm long.

Found in eastern Australia including Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Habitats include urban areas, forests, woodlands and intertidal mangroves.

May travel 50km to its feeding areas each night. Eats a range of native and introduced fruit, particularly figs. 

A ‘camp’ of grey-headed flying foxes can include  thousands of animals.

Young are usually born in September and October before their mothers carry them for three weeks. 

Numbers are declining due to habitat clearing. 

Source: Australian Museum’

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