A dead flying fox found at a property at The Dawn on Thursday.
A dead flying fox found at a property at The Dawn on Thursday. Frances Klein

The horrible truth about bats dropping dead in Gympie yards

THE number of dead or dying flying foxes in Gympie back yards is adding to a horror number of the native bats starving to death across Eastern Australia.

And it is devastating, Gympie wildlife carer David Rowlands said, for the endangered species that is one of the most important for our ecology and often falsely maligned.

Shockingly dry conditions and disruptive bushfires are causing a flying fox starvation crisis in southeast Queensland, and in Gympie Mr Rowlands is seeing daily what was once extremely rare.

"People are finding dead ones all over their yard,” Mr Rowlands said.

"The eucalyptus are not flowering because of the dry weather - and that's their main food source.

"They're going into people's back yards because that's the only places that there's flowering trees like grevilleas and mallukas.”

CRISIS: This flying fox, captured in a tree in Gympie this week is one of many fighting for the last sources of food in the extremely dry conditions. Troy Jegers

He said out of desperation they are eating the green fruit, particularly from mulberry trees across yards in the Gympie region.

The Anarra Wildlife Group carer, who has several injured flying foxes in his care at his Glastonbury home, said he was getting at least five calls a day from residents who have found the mammals dead in their back yard. He said the situation was dire with only 3per cent of the population now that there was in 1950.

"People really don't understand how important flying foxes are to our whole ecology,” he said.

He explained the grey-headed flying foxes (like all fruit bats) that feed on nectar were a crucial night-time pollinator of native plants that are only receptive to pollination between 4pm and 7am.

"We would not have koalas if it wasn't for flying foxes because they are the pollinator for most of our native plants, including eucalyptus,” he said.

"They are responsible for the main seed dispersal of native plants.”

The carer, who is vaccinated to handle bats, said the dangers of flying foxes had been grossly overstated.

He said three or four people had died in Australia of lyssavirus and between six to eight people had caught the Hendra virus from horses that was transferred from the fruit bat.

Bats Troy Jegers

He said he believed the hype did not match the figures.

"There's more chance of winning the $150million Gold Lotto than getting an infectious bite from a flying fox,” he said.

"There's 360 diseases you can catch from humans.”

But he did warn flying foxes should not be handled, but rather disposed of by using a shovel to pick up and bury if dead.

He said if one was found tangled on barbed wire to cover it in a towel before calling a wildlife carer as it would stop twisting itself into further entanglement if darkness was siimulated.

People can help by hanging fruit from trees in their yards, Mr Rowlands said.

He also urged people to pay attention on the roads as the current dry conditions were drawing animals closer to greener feed around roadsides. He was sadly euthanising about two animals a day.

"Wallabies and roos are coming to the edges of the road to eat - dusk and dawn are the worst times,” he said.

"The koalas are on the move at the moment, too, with the start of the breeding season.”

If you find an injured flying fox or animal, phone Anarra Wildlife Group on 54849111.