The race is on to get the last cherries off the trees at the base of Mount Canobolas before they are eaten by flying foxes as representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) announce they will come to Orange next week to meet with affected growers.
A spokesperson for NPWS said it is acknowledged in the industry that exclusion netting is the most effective means of keeping flying foxes and birds off crops.
“However, if orchardists are concerned about crop mitigation or have evidence of an increasing flying fox population locally, they should call their local NPWS office for advice or assistance,” the spokesman said.
However orchardist Guy Gaeta said with the latest wave of flying foxes hitting late season cherries and flying into Orange 10 weeks earlier than expected, the shutdown of government services over Christmas and new year when the flying foxes struck an orchard in Nancarrow Lane left growers feeling helpless.
“It is very frustrating for us,” Mr Gaeta said.
Next week it is expected orchardists Andrew Gartrell, Guy Gaeta and NSW Farmers executive representative Graham Brown will tell NPWS staff how they watched over several nights from last weekend as the flying foxes descended on Mr Gartrell’s orchard stripping mature ripe fruit waiting to be picked.
The NPWS spokesperson said the office at Bathurst has had no application or requests from any growers for a licence to eradicate flying foxes.
“The problem is the existing system where with every licence you can only get rid of up 25 doesn’t work when there are hundreds or even thousands of them coming at once,” Mr Gaeta said.
He said while the NPWS advises netting is the most effective method to protect fruit crops, it is expensive.
“In a place like Orange where we have snowfalls and you have to take the netting off for that and put it back on again you could spend many thousands of dollars a year.
“It just isn’t worth it,” he said.
The NPWS spokesperson said it can issue licences to harm flying foxes pending an inspection of a property.
“Landholders can apply for a further licence if the damage is ongoing.
“In Emergency situations when damage is occurring interim licences to landholders can be issued over the phone to harm 20 or fewer animals when an inspection cannot be conducted in time,” the spokesperson said.