Farmers warned as bats take roost in Cook Park and Ploughmans Lane | Video, photos

Fruit farmers have been warned to be on alert as the flying fox numbers in Orange have swelled in the past few weeks.

A colony of several hundred grey-headed bats has taken roost in about five large plane trees at the south end of Cook Park.

The numbers of bats has increased to a similar-size colony in 12 poplar trees on Ploughmans Lane.

NSW Farmers Orange branch chair Bruce Reynolds said apple farmers would be wary of the bats as their crops were beginning to ripen.

“As the apples start to ripen in the last week of January they will be going for them,” he said.

“These are the grey-headed ones, their favourite food is eucalypts.

“When the fruit ripens is puts off a chemistry, a smell, so that’s what the bats are looking for.

“The galas [apples] will be first.”

Mr Reynolds said he had heard reports of the bats also flying around East Orange.

“They have scouts that go out and look for food,” Mr Reynolds said.

On Wednesday afternoon the bats in Cook Park and Ploughmans Lane were keeping quiet and trying to beat the heat.

“At Ploughmans Lane you can see the poplar branches pulled to bits by the bats,” he said.

NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service [WIRES] bat co-ordinator Storm Stanford said health fears and potential damage to trees were often the public’s main concerns about bats.

She said while all types of bats can carry life-threatening diseases such as Australian Bat Lyssavirus, infections were extremely rare.

Ms Stanford said in her 15 years of working with bats, she has only ever come across two with this disease.

“It’s incredibly rare, but if you’re bitten or scratched there’s a very effective vaccine,” she said.

Ms Stanford said the virus can only been spread by saliva, not by bat urine or faeces that may be found where the bats are living.

“If you’re bitten or scratched you do need to seek medical help,” Ms Stanford said.

She said the chance of damage to the park’s trees could be reduced if people did not deliberately make moves or actions to disturb the bats while they were roosting.

“If people go and disturb them they are much more likely to damage the tree,” she said.


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