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Low numbers of flying foxes no surprise

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Last November saw grey-headed flying foxes arriving back to Eurobodalla from their northern migration, only to face even tougher times here as extreme conditions overtook the shire.

Years of widespread drought across much of the flying foxes migratory range has seen their principal food – the flowers and fruit of native trees – in short supply, and things were no better in Eurobodalla. By mid-December flying foxes throughout the drought and fire affected shire were showing signs of stress and starvation.

Eurobodalla Council’s flying fox officer Natalie Foster said flying fox mothers became too weak to carry young and began abandoning them.

“Other signs of food shortage observed in monitored flying fox camps across NSW included dehydration, lethargy, frequent movement between camps and the creation of temporary small camps near any available food source – including residential gardens in some urban areas,” Ms Foster said.

“In Eurobodalla we also saw more camps including two new sites, all with smaller numbers of animals in them.”

Threatened species experts from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment have estimated about 14,000 flying fox pups from the 2019/20 season died across NSW, while sustained heat-stress events (temperatures above 42 degrees are fatal to flying foxes) killed a further 54,500 flying foxes, including 22,839 grey-headed flying foxes, the species found in Eurobodalla.

Ms Foster said this was not good news for grey-headed flying foxes.

“The species is listed as vulnerable under state and commonwealth legislation due to the population’s decline. It’s also bad news for the stability and health of our native forests, which rely on flying foxes for pollination and seed dispersal,” she said.

“It’s no surprise grey-headed flying fox numbers were significantly lower than average in Eurobodalla last summer.

“Now most have flown north in search of food, as is usual for this time of year, and they will return with the warmer months with numbers dependent on food sources.”

Council continues to monitor flying fox camps across Eurobodalla.