One of the colonies of flying foxes that were residing in Warwick trees earlier this year.
One of the colonies of flying foxes that were residing in Warwick trees earlier this year. Shannon Newley

Flying foxes pose a new threat

AS THE last remaining property quarantined due to hendra virus was cleared this week, another flying fox related concern reared its head yet again for the Southern Downs.

With trees blossoming and fruit on the way, farmers across the Downs were wondering just where and when flying foxes may set up camp this season.

But Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) director of wildlife management Dr Ashley Bunce said there was no way of knowing where they would make themselves at home.

"As flying foxes are nomadic and highly mobile animals, and can travel up to 50km each night in search of food, there is little chance of predicting accurately where they will move to when a colony changes its roost location," he said.

When the hendra virus was at its peak earlier this year, the Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) considered options to move the bats on.

At a council meeting earlier this year, it was decided to see whether another Queensland council had success in applying for a damage mitigation permit - which would allow action to be taken to disperse the native animals - but no further action has been taken.

As protected species, flying foxes can not be harmed.

"Various methods of humane, non-lethal fruit crop protection can be employed by crop growers and orchardists, such as light and noise-based deterrents," Dr Bunce said.

But Cr Pennisi said scare gun restrictions meant they couldn't be used after 10pm to fend off the nocturnal animals.

"For fruit cropping, it recognised that one of the most effective protection mechanisms is full canopy netting," Dr Bunce said.

Cr Pennisi said for many farmers the exorbitant cost of netting was prohibitive, leaving them vulnerable.

"I know of people who have walked off their farms, which was in part because of flying foxes," Cr Pennisi said.

"They (the food producers) are the most important people on earth. You don't just go to the supermarket and buy a lettuce that has been made in a factory. There is someone out there who has grown that lettuce."

Despite the widespread problem of flying foxes throughout the Southern Downs this year - at urban residences and rural properties - Dr Bunce said no applications for the dispersal of their roosts were received by DERM.

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