Community and flying-foxes

While they may look cute and cuddly all wrapped up in a little blanket in photos, flying-foxes can be quite disruptive to your home and work life, especially in large numbers and around breeding and birthing seasons. We understand that sometimes roosts and/or dispersal and deterrent activities can have an impact on your home or business and though these can't always be prevented, we'll do our best to help.

Council also receives a lot of enquiries from members of the public about health and safety concerns relating to flying-foxes. Unfortunately there has been some misinformation circulated in recent years about the health risks of flying-foxes, so we hope that by providing the facts for you below, we can reduce some of your concerns.

There are four species of flying-foxes on mainland Australia, the Spectacled, Little Red, Black and Grey-headed flying-foxes.

In Cairns, we have a large number of the Spectacled Flying-fox which is listed as 'Vulnerable' under the Australian Government's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and is being considered for listing as 'Endangered' as a result of a reduction in numbers in the wild over the last 12 years. This listing means that by law, Council is often limited in what actions it can take to disperse or deter flying-foxes, especially during birthing season (anywhere between September and February each year).

If you have specific concerns or questions about your health, amenity, or safety, we encourage you to have a look through the resources below. Hopefully, this will help to dispel some myths about flying foxes and to assist in improving relationships between community members, Council and flying foxes.

Your health and flying-foxes

If you are living near a large bat colony, we understand the noise and smell can have a real affect on your home life. As far as true health risks though, flying-foxes are less likely to cause you any harm than many common household or recreational activities.

See resources listed below for up to date and reliable information on the health risks associated with flying-foxes and the steps you can take to reduce these.

Your children and flying-foxes

Our children in their kindness will often want to help an injured animal. While it's a great instinct to have, no injured or sick animal should be handled without the proper protection, knowledge or immunisation. Injured animals are often scared and vulnerable, so may try to defend themselves against those to try to help them by biting or scratching. Flying-foxes are no exception to this and can sometimes, as is the case for most animals, carry some illnesses that might affect humans. More information on managing health risks for your children are listed below.

If you see a sick or injured flying-fox (or any other wild animal) here are some tips to try:

  • do not touch the animal
  • keep sight of the animal and phone your nearest bat rescue centre. If there is no answer, please leave a detailed message with time, exact location of bat and return phone number in case further information is required
    • Cairns: 4053 4467 - FNQ Wildlife Rescue
    • Cairns: 4036 1984 - Wildlife Care and Rescue
    • Kuranda: 4093 8858 - Bat Reach
  • if you don't have a phone, but you're with friends, get someone to stay (if safe to do so) and keep an eye on the animal while you get to a phone or adult to ask for help
  • if you don't have a phone and are on your own, try to mark the site in some way and take a photo or detailed description to your nearest rescue place.

Your home and flying-foxes

Flying-foxes change their roost or camp locations depending on available food sources. This means that sometimes they turn up in the hundreds or thousands where they've never been before. One or a few animals may also turn up in your yard to feed on flowering or fruiting trees. We have provided some information below for people who find that flying-foxes have become an unexpected part of their home life.

Your pets and flying-foxes

Pets are naturally inquisitive, particularly when it comes to other animals in their yard. While ideally, we'd love to be able to keep domestic pets and flying-foxes separated, it's not always that easy. Check out the bat facts below to help keep your pet and these native animals at a safe distance.

Your horse and flying-foxes

While a connection has been made between flying-foxes and the Hendra virus in recent years, the actual route of infection is unknown. It is thought that horses may contract Hendra virus infection from eating matter recently contaminated with flying-fox urine, saliva or birth products. 

A Hendra virus vaccine for horses was introduced in November 2012 to help protect horses from contracting the disease and remains the surest way to prevent the disease.

Rainwater tanks and flying-foxes in Cairns

Australian Bat Lyssavirus cannot be contracted from drinking or using water from rainwater tanks that is contaminated with bat faeces. The risk of getting a gastro illess from bat faeces is no different to other animals.

To protect your water tank from contamination by any animal faeces, ensure your tank is covered, water treated, drained and cleaned on regular basis (in accordance with Queensland regulations).

Last updated: 10 November 2016