Orchardists fear influx of flying foxes after sightings

FLYING FOXES have been spotted in Orange months earlier than expected.

Orchardists are bracing themselves for an onslaught and warn residential gardeners they could be next.

Guy Gaeta said he had already caught three flying foxes in fruit nets on his property this week and had seen several of them fly over his orchard towards Mount Canobolas, where large numbers were suspected to be feeding.

Mr Gaeta said flying foxes had also been seen on the Duntryleague golf course and in Wentworth Estate.

“I’m really concerned that they’ve come back three months earlier than they normally do. Usually it’s the end of February or early March,” he said.

“I’m just lucky they’re not in my cherry trees.”

Mr Gaeta believes the flying foxes will make their way into local orchards once the blossoms run out in the forest around Mount Canobolas.

“I think it’s really scary to have them here, but nobody cares about us, no politicians are doing anything,” he said.

Mr Gaeta said the only way to protect his orchard was to break the law and shoot more flying foxes than he was allowed to under the law.

“What do I do if I’m only allowed to shoot 10 out of 1000? We’re allowed to shoot the hell out of starlings ... what’s the difference?” he said.

Mr Gaeta says once the flying foxes have stripped fruit from the orchards they’ll target backyard fig and nectarine trees.

“They’ll only leave (the area) when they run out of food.”

Mr Gaeta said the only way to get rid of the flying foxes was to shoot them, now.

“I know it might sound cruel, but it would save us a lot of heartache and loss of money. We can’t afford to lose our fruit,” he said.

“We used to be orchard country, but now it’s bat country ... why is it always the poor farmer that has to lose out? “We supply food to our country, do people forget that?”

Councillor urges residents not to panic

By TRACEY PRISK

ORANGE councillor Reg Kidd is urging people not to panic over recent flying fox sightings in and around Orange.

Cr Kidd said he visited several locations in Orange and on the outskirts of the city yesterday and only managed to spot about 20 flying foxes in the Wentworth Estate.

Cr Kidd said sites previously favoured by flying foxes, including Dairy Creek Road and Cook Park, were free of the animals.

“I went to the main roosting sites, including areas of Kite Street, and didn’t see any,” he said.

Cr Kidd said the few that had been spotted in the area may just have been migrating through Orange from another location and there was no reason to believe the numbers would swell to the thousands seen in previous years.

“I’d like everyone to keep their eyes out and if anyone sees them, let me know, I’m happy to go and have a look,” he said.

“The cherries are just about finished and then we move on to apples ... but I don’t think they’re [the flying foxes] back [in large numbers].”

Cr Kidd said in past years the flying foxes had been found in Willow and Elm trees so he did not expect to see them roosting in the forest near Mount Canobolas, as some orchardists have suggested.

Orange fruit grower and head of the NSW Farmers Association Horticulture committee Peter Darley would not comment on recent bat sightings in the region.

tracey.prisk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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