WARNING: Starving bats dropping from sky, attacking on Coast
BATS are dropping from the sky out of starvation and increasingly attacking once on the ground.
Several Fraser Coast residents have been hospitalised, prompting a warning from the region's health service.
Hundreds of bats have died across the Fraser Coast.
Natalie Richardson from Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast said a food shortage due to habitat loss and dry weather was causing starvation in flying foxes, with hundreds reported dead or sick by the public.
Ms Richardson said it was last year's newborns, now juveniles, that were struggling the most.
"The smaller animals often don't have the fitness to survive," she said. "The numbers we are seeing wouldn't even be the tip of the iceberg."
Gale-force winds over the past few weeks would also have been tiring for the creatures.
She said flying foxes had a fast metabolism and this, combined with the amount of flying they did, could quickly lead to exhaustion.
Bats suffered from hypoglycaemia and would fall out of trees as a result of low blood sugar, she said.
People then picked up the animals, not realising they were still alive or well enough to attack, which sometimes resulted in a scratch or bite from the frightened animals.
Any bat that bites or scratches a person would need to be destroyed so it could be tested for diseases.
All bats are potential carriers of Australian bat lyssavirus and any bite or scratch from a bat poses a risk of infection, which is why only trained and vaccinated professionals should handle them.
Grey-headed flying foxes had been the worst affected, Ms Richardson said, a species already listed as vulnerable.
She said future generations were being lost because bats had only one baby a year and it took them a few years to reach maturity.
Of the dozens of bats Ms Richardson had seen recently, 12 to 15 had been sent into care to help their recovery.
Wide Bay Public Health physician Margaret Young said six people across the Wide Bay had been bitten or scratched.
"It can be difficult to determine if a bat is dead - and even if they're dead they still pose an infection risk to humans, particularly due to their wing claw.
"In two of our recent cases of bat injuries, the people who handled them thought the bat was dead and harmless, but in one case the bat wasn't dead and in the other case the person was scratched by the wing claw," Dr Young said.
"These injuries are a timely reminder that the best protection against being exposed to ABLV is for members of the public to always avoid handling any bat."
Anyone with a scratch or bite should seek immediate medical attention.
For information or assistance, contact Wildlife Rescue Fraser Coast on 4121 3146.